Students put safety first

By Casey Peacock: PNT Staff Writer

Challenged to turn a tragedy into something positive, a Portales High School student organization developed a traffic safety program aimed at elementary students.

Family Career and Community Leaders of America students presented the program Tuesday to James Elementary School second-graders.

The safety program was inspired by the August death of 7-year-old Mireya Tarango, who was killed while trying to cross N.M. 88, according to FCCLA teacher Debbie Stenstrom.
For Portales High School freshman Samantha Ochoa, the community service project holds additional meaning. Samantha’s 6-year-old brother was killed in a car accident in 1999.

Though the project has been hard for her, she feels it is important to participate in it.

“It means a lot to me. I’m happy that it would be the project we work on,” Samantha said.

Based on information provided by the Families Acting for Community Traffic Safety, the students have spent the better part of three weeks preparing for the programs, said Stenstrom.

“They put the information together and they are in charge of presenting the information. They are the teachers,” Stenstrom said.

The FCCLA students incorporated games into the information they presented to the second-graders, which included proper use of seat belts and booster seats, bus safety and crossing safety.

In the booster seat safety portion of the program, the FCCLA students weighed and measured the second-graders. All of the children were issued cards to take to their parents to let them know if they still needed to be restrained in a booster seat.

According to the measurements, 58 of the 60 students should still be using a booster seat, Stenstrom said — of which only three did.
“We want parents and kids to be aware of the laws,” said Stenstrom. “We want Portales to be safe.”

Second-grade teacher Jayne Combs felt the program was ideal for her students, who are part of the dual-language program. The FCCLA students did a good job with the program, which they presented in both English and Spanish, said Combs.

“I thought it was an awesome experience for my students,” said Combs.