YOVASO announces awards for teen-related traffic crash, fatality prevention efforts

yovasoTwenty-one schools and youth groups across Virginia were among the award winners recognized during the annual Youth of Virginia Speak Out About Traffic Safety Awards Ceremony sponsored by State Farm® and held virtually on Tuesday, July 27.

The 17 high schools, two middle schools, and two youth groups were awarded the 2021 Youth Traffic Safety Award of Excellence in recognition for their continued dedication and resilience in educating students about driver and passenger safety during the COVID-19 Pandemic. In addition to the school award, YOVASO club sponsors and SROs who made it possible for their clubs to remain active this past year were also recognized for their exemplary efforts and dedication.

“It is important to recognize our students, schools, youth groups, and law enforcement for helping to save lives on Virginia’s highways,” said Mary King, YOVASO Program Manager. “Peer-to-peer programs are key to changing behavior and influencing safe drivers. We are proud and thankful for everyone’s dedication and hard work this past year to promote youth traffic safety.”

2021 Youth Traffic Safety Award of Excellence Recipients

  • Caroline High School, Caroline County; club sponsor, Katie Anderson, Teacher
  • Colonial Forge High School, Stafford County; club sponsor, Kathleen Mellenberg, Teacher
  • Eastern Montgomery High School, Montgomery County; club sponsor, Dep. Jennifer Underwood, SRO
  • Fluvanna County High School, Fluvanna County; club sponsor, Dep. Kevin Taylor, SRO
  • Galileo Magnet High School, Danville; club sponsor, Nancy Rook, Teacher
  • George Wythe High School, Richmond; club sponsor, Angela Moore, Teacher
  • Heritage High School, Lynchburg; club sponsor, Stacy Preston, Instructional Assistant
  • Heritage High School, Newport News; club sponsor, Jamie Plecker, Teacher
  • Jefferson Forest High School, Bedford County; club sponsor, Stuart Gibbs, Teacher
  • Lloyd C Byrd High School, Chesterfield County; club sponsor, Jessica Rogers, Teacher
  • Liberty High School, Bedford County; club sponsor, Ben Thurman, Teacher
  • Louisa County High School, Louisa County; club sponsors, Sgt. Rob Sarnoski & Dep. Carter Henley, SROs
  • Luray High School, Page County; club sponsor, Susan Betcher, Career Coach
  • Manchester High School, Chesterfield County; club sponsor, Kristyn Baldwin, Teacher
  • Page County High School, Page County; club sponsor, Susan Betcher, Career Coach
  • Randolph-Henry High School, Charlotte County; club sponsor, Monique Williams, Teacher
  • William Byrd High School, Roanoke County; club sponsor, Alex Gun, Guidance Counselor
  • Auburn Middle School, Montgomery County; club sponsor, Hannah Anderson, Teacher
  • Walker-Grant Middle School, Fredericksburg; club sponsor, Jeanine Popescu, Teacher
  • Page Alliance for Community Acton (Y-PACA), Page County club sponsor, Susan Betcher, Career Coach
  • REACH Homeschool Group, Fredericksburg; club sponsor, Kim Ylisela, Assistant Drama Leader

In addition to these awards, two law enforcement officers and three students were recognized for their work during the 2020-2021 school year:

Law Enforcement Officer of the Year Award: Sr. Trooper Mark S. Walden, Virginia State Police

In recognition of a law enforcement officer’s exemplary efforts to encourage traffic safety among youth in his/her community, region, and/ or state.

Student Volunteer of the Year Award: Makiyah Murray, Heritage High School, Newport News

In recognition of a student for outstanding service to his/her YOVASO club through volunteer hours to plan, implement, and work on youth traffic safety programs in the school and community.

Rock Star of the Year Award: Essence Robinson, Heritage High School, Lynchburg

In recognition of a student who demonstrates enthusiasm and excitement in his/her school and community for promoting safe teen driving and passenger safety. This student is a champion for the cause and a vocal role model within the school and community.

Youth Leadership Award: Payton Poindexter, Jefferson Forest High School, Bedford County

In recognition of a YOVASO Youth Advisory Council (YAC) student who demonstrates exemplary leadership skills and a commitment to working on safe teen driving and youth traffic safety programs at the local and state level.

Steven D. Goodwin Lifetime Achievement Award: Sgt. Rob Sarnoski, Louisa County Sheriff’s Office 

In recognition of a special individual who has demonstrated a lifelong commitment to youth traffic safety and the prevention of crashes, injuries, and fatalities among young drivers and passengers.

The YOVASO Awards Ceremony was made possible by a grant from State Farm. Henrico County State Farm Agent, KK Alloway, represented the organization at the event honoring schools, students, teachers, and law enforcement from across Virginia who demonstrated exemplary efforts during the 2020-2021 school year to encourage safe driving and passenger safety among teenagers.

“The last school year was like no other. YOVASO clubs were challenged to be creative and engaging in new ways to reach young drivers and passengers with traffic safety messages,” said Kate Beadle, State Farm spokesperson. “We are proud to celebrate their relentless commitment to safety.”

YOVASO is Virginia’s peer-to-peer education and leadership program for teen driver and passenger safety. YOVASO is a program of the Virginia State Police and is funded by a grant from the Virginia DMV. Membership in YOVASO is free and open to all Virginia high schools, middle schools, and youth groups. YOVASO currently has 78 active member schools.

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