Press Release

May 23, 2005

 Students advocate for safety

MOUNT PROSPECT – The fourth-grade Safety Advocates of Indian Grove School in Mount Prospect were presented today with a Governor’s People Are Today’s Heroes (PATH) Award. The award recognizes groups or individuals who, through their hard work and commitment, have improved the lives of people in their community in the areas of health care, public safety, education and economic development. The awards are chosen by and presented through state agencies, and the Safety Advocates was made via the Illinois Department of Public Health. “Young children do not always think about safety,” said Governor Rod R. Blagojevich. “But these students not only think about it, they practice it. They are to be commended for their efforts to learn about safety and to keep themselves and others in the community safe.” Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, state public health director, presented the Governor’s PATH Award to Indian Grove teacher Janet Weiss and her 30 students.

“Head injury is the leading cause of death and disability in bicycle crashes,” Dr. Whitaker said. “A child is 14 times more likely to survive a bicycle crash if he or she is wearing a helmet, but many children do not want to wear them because they feel as if they look silly or their peers will make fun of them. These students not only wear their helmets, they wear them proudly. They should serve as role models to other children in the state.”

Weiss’ has incorporated safety into the regular fourth-grade curriculum. The students are reading more advanced text by studying Illinois Department of Transportation statistics or literature from the National SAFE KIDS Campaign. They have studied statistics that show how much safer a bicyclist is when wearing a helmet and have conducted a school-wide survey to determine how many students wear helmets. The class received $150 from the Illinois SAFE KIDS Coalition, part of IDPH, to support their studies and were named the Illinois SAFE KIDS Coalition - Child Safety Advocates for 2004-2005

Besides keeping themselves safe, the students are trying to ensure the safety of all those in the community. In February, they made a presentation before the Mount Prospect Village Board, asking the board to pass an ordinance requiring anyone 16 years of age or younger to wear a helmet when bicycling, skateboarding or rollerblading. The board recommended that the students take their information to the village's youth commission, a group that could review the proposal and make a recommendation back to the board on further action.

The youth commission recently decided that, instead of making a recommendation as to whether to pass an ordinance at this time, it would like the students to educate the community on safety. As part of that effort, the students will soon be taping a public service announcement to air on the local cable television station. In addition, the youth commission plans to start an incentive program, in which children who are seen wearing a helmet while bicycling will be given a certificate, redeemable at a local business.

“These fourth-graders came up with a comprehensive approach to address an issue that concerned them, did extensive research and then took the matter before the village board,” said Michael Janonis, Mount Prospect village manager. “Many fourth-graders would have been intimidated in such a setting, but these students were prepared and were able to respond to questions”


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Illinois Department of Public Health
535 West Jefferson Street
Springfield, Illinois 62761
Phone 217-782-4977
Fax 217-782-3987
TTY 800-547-0466
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