High school students can apply to be Vision Zero ambassadors | #schoolsaftey

Passionate about public safety? Are pedestrian and bike safety important to you? Looking to make a difference in the community and embark on a mission to eliminate roadway injuries and deaths?

The Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) is looking to select the next generation of student leaders for its “Vision Zero Youth Ambassador” program. Vision Zero is an initiative in the county that aims to eliminate traffic fatalities and serious injuries to vehicle occupants, pedestrians and bicyclists by the end of 2030.

According to the Zero Deaths Maryland dashboard, this year there have been 41 traffic fatalities in the county. In 2022, 48 roadway fatalities were reported. The latest traffic-related death occurred on Nov. 19 when Peter Kostas Axarlis, 43, of Rockville died after the car he was in swerved off the road and into trees – it was the third death from a single-car collision since October.

“Our students are so creative, and they can have a powerful role in influencing change,” Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich said in a press release. “We know their ideas will have a real impact on helping us work toward the County’s Vision Zero goal of zero deaths through traffic safety infrastructure and programming.”

High school students in public, private and home schools are eligible to take part in the program and can apply online. The deadline to apply is 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 15.

Per an MCDOT press release, the program is project-based and teaches the teen ambassadors “leadership skills, outreach and engagement techniques to address traffic safety needs in their community.” The program will also teach about different aspects of Vision Zero.

As youth ambassadors, they will be responsible for creating a group project that aims to improve the safety of county residents and will receive guidance and resources from the county, the release stated.

MCDOT director Chris Conklin said in the release that ambassadors could gain “real world” experience in engineering and advocacy projects.

“We are empowering teens to assess needed improvements to the built environment and behaviors and develop strategic programs that provide solutions,” Conklin said. “These projects have tangible outcomes that directly impact the safety and well-being of our county residents.”

Students can earn up to 35 Student Service Learning (SSL) hours for participating in the program, and additional hours can be earned through participating in outreach efforts that promote pedestrian and driver safety throughout the program.

Applicants will be notified by Jan. 5 if they have been accepted into the program. Those who are selected are required to attend a virtual orientation from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Jan. 20 via Zoom.

After the orientation, there will be four in-person sessions held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays. In-person sessions are held at the Montgomery County Public Safety Building, located at 100 Edison Park Drive in Gaithersburg.

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