One of my favorite quotes reads “it’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.” Being kind, respectful and open minded, especially in a world and society that is currently consumed with negativity, violence and hate, is extremely important and crucial. While I was fortunate enough to grow up in a household with a roof over my head, hot meals and the support and ability to obtain a college degree, that isn’t easily attainable for many Americans. It is our social responsibility and duty to help others who are less fortunate than ourselves. The role of community service in today’s society is one that should never be taken lightly. The smallest act of kindness could make all the difference in someone’s life, whether it’s holding the door, exchanging a smile or donating your time, energy or money.
The ability to be an influence through my works and my advocacy is something I never take for granted. It is a gift and a responsibility to take full advantage of the voice, the outlet and the platform that, in turn, works to make my community, my state and the people around me better. In turn, I am also a better and more wholesome person. I have been exposed to a multitude of situations and experiences that have opened my eyes to a world outside of my own.
When I was 17 years old, I experienced the loss of a very dear friend. Joshua Moren was only 18 years old.
Two weeks after his high school graduation, he was killed by a drunk driver. This issue is one that not only affected my life, but one that affects thousands of innocent families across the state and country every year. According to a 2013 report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 10,076 people died and 290,000 were injured in drunk driving crashes. Of those deaths, over 100 occurred in the state of New Jersey.
It wasn’t until the loss of Josh that I realized how relevant the issue was and promised myself I would do everything in my power to stop the reoccurrence of this selfish act.
The goal of my platform work was and is to bring awareness to this issue through education and promote prevention by encouraging others to utilize public transportation and a designated driver. Car crashes are the leading cause of death among teenagers today, and a quarter of those deaths involve an underage drinking driver. While I do not condone underage drinking, we live in a world where we can’t assume that teenagers aren’t going to drink. In maintaining a realistic perspective, we have to address the problem with a reasonable solution such as a designated driver. I also encourage students to initiate a conversation with their parents about alcohol consumption. Opening and keeping a dialogue and foundation of trust could make all the difference for a parent and their child if they are ever in a situation where they are unable to drive themselves home.
Josh’s death will stay with me forever, but it is his life that I wish to honor with my platform work. It is important for me to share Josh’s story, emphasizing that his death was 100% preventable. Someone made the selfish, irresponsible and ultimately fatal decision of driving while drunk. I was supposed to be with Josh on the day he was killed, but was unable to because of a work commitment. I missed his phone call two hours prior to his death and never got the chance to say goodbye. Above all, I have learned to cherish the value of life and what it has to offer.
In addition to her work with drunk driving awareness and the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, Anna is an advocate for youth empowerment, gender equality, the arts, and making the world a better place.