winnersThe “Don’t Be Distracted” team from Red Bank Regional was a grand prize winner in the Brain Injury Alliance of New Jersey’s year-long U Got Brains Competition. Pictured are (right to left, back row) RBR SAC Counselor Lori Todd, Ryan Toriello, Joel Sibrian, Josh Bruce, Tim Mills, RBR Interactive Media Teacher Carl Grillo; (middle row) Aria Huntley, Eric Banal, Haley Watson, Nikki Lauro, Mike LoBasso; (front row) Justin Delaney, Nicole Delaney. Not pictured: Matt Suszka, Joe Malley, and RBR SRO Rob Chenoweth.

Press release from Red Bank Regional High School

Last spring, Graphic Communications students at Red Bank Regional High School strapped Go-Pro cameras to the heads of students and teachers, who portrayed victims in the annual pre-prom car crash reenactment. The students turned footage from the reenactment into a video that qualified for the fifth annual U Got Brains competition sponsored by the Brain Injury Alliance of New Jersey — and after an intensive effort to publicize their mission through various media to the school and general community, the RBR Don’t Be Distracted Campaign bested 56 other NJ high schools to become one of three grand-prize winners.

During the program’s culminating event held at Six Flags Great Adventure, RBR shared the top honors with Jackson Memorial High School in Ocean County, and Lenape Regional in Burlington County. Each of the winning schools won a state-of-the-art driving simulator to help educate future student drivers in driving safety.

Carl Grillo, Interactive Media teacher and director of the winning video, was particularly proud of his students, explaining, “We were the first ‘rookie’ school in the competition to win the grand prize. That had never happened before.”

The “U Got Brains” contest challenges students to heighten peers’ awareness of the tragedies resulting from distracted driving—texting, drinking or scrolling through music–and the critical seconds removed from drivers’ attention to driving.

Lori Todd, RBR’s Student Assistant Counselor who brought the program to the class’s attention, commented that the winning criteria involved the totality of the campaign.  Mr. Grillo used daily emails to urge the community to vote for the Bucs on the online poll run by U Got Brains. The group also managed an active Twitter account which ran regular messages about the group’s mission. Students tweeted and re-tweeted the messages, posting and reposting on other social media sites. The entire school was blanketed with posters and several giant banners carrying the campaign slogan of a car license plate embedded with the characters #RBRHSDBD—an acronym for RBR High School Don’t Be Distracted.

Word of the initiative quickly spread as team members distributed wrist bands and t-shirts– financed by the U Got Brains Alliance–to their fellow students during lunch periods. The entire school body was encouraged to sign a banner pledging not to be distracted while driving. In cooperation with the Little Silver Police Department, the community was involved through steady messaging about distracted driving displayed on the town and on the marquee of the Little Silver town hall.

As part of the contest, the class created a PSA to run on the school’s video screens. The team’s second video told the story of a student who kills his own sister while being distracted behind the wheel. Capturing the incident and its aftermath, the video includes the accident, arrest, trial, and imprisonment of the guilty teen. RBR Principal Risa Clay portrayed the distraught mother who loses one child to distracted driving and another to prison.

Senior Graphics Communication student Ryan Toriello explains that the team was rewarded with more than the prize of a driving simulator: “[The video] was initially a lot of fun to make, but as we got into it, it became more. I am really proud of being a part of this class. It became a real bonding experience for all of us.”

Go here to view the “Pledge” PSA, here to view the “Don’t Be Distracted” PSA, and here to view the “Thank You” PSA.