Forton-Lee Memorial Softball Game

December 2006 & January 2007

Havre de Grace High School, Harford County, Kelly Slentz, Gregory Lynch,

As a concerned student, I founded an annual event to raise awareness of safe teen driving and to raise money for a new college scholarship fund.  The event is a softball game day where students from Havre de Grace High School play against the town’s volunteer fire fighters.  The inaugural event generated nearly $10,000 for the new student scholarship fund.

Best Practice 1:  What recognized community need was met by your project (e.g. health, education, environmental or public safety need)?

The need to raise awareness of safe teen driving and the need to raise scholarship money for teens going on to college were met by this project.  Two of my classmates, one of whom was my best friend, were killed in separate car accidents in which they were passengers.  Their deaths, along with the death of another girl from a neighboring high school the same year and the death of a popular football star student from our school two years earlier, led me to take action to raise awareness of safe driving for teenagers.  At the same time, the event was used to raise money to be given out as scholarships to graduating students from Havre de Grace High School. 

Four graduating seniors from Havre de Grace High School will be awarded scholarship money.  Two students will be awarded $2,000 scholarships and two others will win $500 scholarship awards.  This activity brought comfort to two of the families of the teenagers killed in car accidents, their former teachers, coaches, classmates, teammates, and me.  I intend to sponsor this activity annually in hopes of reaching as many people as possible.  Most importantly, I hope that at least one new teenage driver has an awareness of the tragic consequences from driving carelessly. 

Best Practice 2:  How was the project connected to school curriculum (e.g. what course outcomes were met and/or how did the project reinforce or enhance student academic learning)?

This project was sponsored by S.M.I.L.E.S. [STUDENTS MAKING INDIVIDUAL LIVES EXTRA SPECIAL], a student service organization at Havre de Grace High School.  The project touched on topics we studied during the citizen advocacy unit of our Law in America class.  I was able to apply what I’d learned in the class by making community contacts, and investigating resources and services in the community. 

The students involved with the project learned valuable life lessons about teamwork as well.  By working as a team, we were able to simplify a complex task.  We were able to reach more people and have greater impact because there were so many groups and community resources involved.  Valuable life lessons were learned about friendships, teamwork, community involvement, and civic responsibility. 

Best Practice 3:  How did you reflect on your experience throughout the project?

This project was born out of reflection on the lives lost and the grief of the families and community because of that loss.  Family members of the lost students and I sat down and developed a plan.  As this plan grew, much thought and reflection was necessary to bring it to a successful conclusion.  Even though we were very pleased with the first event, we immediately began to focus on what we could do to make this worthwhile project even more successful in the future.  We’ve decided that next year’s project will focus more intensively on instructing students’ on the importance of responsible driving. 

Me and the students in my class reflected on what might work well and what we could do to make the The Forton-Lee Memorial Scholarship project even stronger.  This reflection made us realize that we need to more clearly get out the message about responsible student driving. We also decided we could improve the project by including the local police department and the ambulance core, as well as the local fire fighters.  Not only did this broaden community participation, but it improved the quality of information that we were able to share with students and the community at large.  A goal we set for next year is to include additional classes and teachers in planning and carrying out this project.

Best Practice 4:  How did students take leadership roles and take responsibility for the success of the project?

This project was initiated and run by students.  Several of my close friends who were also close friends of Ashley and Willie helped by getting the word out to other students.  Several of them paid $10 each to play in the games.  Without their enthusiasm for the event the project wouldn’t have succeeded.  

Best Practice 5:  What community partners did you work with on this project (e.g. non-profits, civic organizations, business that provided donations, etc.)?

Community partners were critical in making this event a success.  First there were the great members of the Susquehanna Hose Company.  They provided a meeting room for us to organize the event. They also made an upfront donation of $100 per fire house and provided players for the student teams to challenge.  In the rules of our game, a player could steal a base if someone paid $5 to the umpire.  You could buy a homerun for $25.  You could even buy a double-play or strikeout for $10.  The fire fighters’ enthusiastic and generous friends helped buy a victory for their team.

The Havre de Grace Little League helped us by providing the equipment, lining the field, and providing the umpires.  They also allowed us to use their PA sound system.  The Havre de Grace Youth Football League helped us by arranging their schedules to free up the softball field.

Many area businesses donated money, food, gift certificates, or goods for us to raffle.  The city council helped by mentioning the event at one of their meetings and the county executive opened the event with a short talk about safe teen driving.  

Best Practice 6:  How did you prepare and plan ahead for the project?

The first thing I did was present my idea to Willie’s and Ashley’s families.  Then I set up a meeting with the mother of Janet Hardy, a teen from Perryville High School who died because of a drunk driver.  Janet’s mother created a scholarship in her daughter’s memory.  Mrs. Hardy gave me advice and valuable information on how to set up a scholarship.  Contacting Mr. Osman, SMILES advisor, was my next step.  He was very supportive and suggested I make it a SMILES event.  I set the date, got a permit for the field and then found a place for the first meeting.  I asked Ashley’s brother to come up with a logo for the T-shirts and letterhead.  I made flyers advertising the games and circulated a letter to businesses asking for donations.  At the first meeting, I asked people to sign up for advertising, fundraising, field prep, food, raffles and T-shirts assignments.  Havre de Grace High School students and the local firefighters signed up for the two teams.  Everything seemed to come together because of the hard work of everyone involved.

Best Practice 7:  What knowledge and skills did students develop through this project?

As for myself, I realize that with determination and hard work goals can be accomplished.  Having a clear vision of what you want to achieve is important and then organizing and communicating that vision to others is difficult, but essential to success. 

It is clear that a number of the other students involved in this project learned a great deal as well. My classmates and I learned that it was going to take a team effort. The responsibilities for the event would need to be divided based on talents and abilities.  This approach allowed us to expand and refine the project. We identified the issues, set goals, developed expertise, recruited community recourses, identified obstacles, and resolved problems and issues as they arose.  

All of the many students involved learned valuable lessons, but most importantly, we learned a new way to deal with grief.  We learned how powerful it is to be positive and celebrate life.