Driven to make a Difference
written and photographed by angelina bellebuono
Morgan County is small. The ripple of a local tragedy often turns to tidal wave and pushes onto the sand of many lives: a single accident or death or illness will be felt from expensive home to single-wide trailer. From Sunday school classrooms to the elementary school lunchroom. From the checkout line at the grocery store to the office breakroom to the factory floor.
On Dec. 16, 2009, 18-year-old Caleb Sorohan died in a wreck in Hard Labor Creek State Park that resulted from him texting while driving. In the months that followed, his story flowed out from the boundaries of Morgan County onto the floor of the state Capitol, into television commercials and news programs. And on July 10, 2010, the ripples of Caleb’s tragedy moved onto the shores of all Georgia drivers, as Senate Bill 360 (the “Caleb Sorohan Act for Saving Lives by Preventing Texting While Driving”) turned a community’s sadness and loss into the legacy of education, change, progress.
Like many of the nights so far this year, Tuesday, Jan. 17 was more waterlogged than cold.
But in the Morgan County High School Auditorium, the sound of rain was inaudible as a group of students stood up, one by one, and explained how Caleb’s story changed their lives.
This gathering of students, which includes Caleb’s sister, Alex, and brother, Griffin, and the daughter of one of the seriously injured victims of the accident, Jonina Frische, shared with the public their powerful presentation, “Don’t Text, Just Drive.”
This presentation includes video and a slideshow, as well as Alex, Griffin and Jonina’s personal stories of the tragedy, and according to MCHS teacher Amy Saylor, will be presented state-wide in partnership with the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety. At the close of the presentation, the student presenters invite to the audience to sign the pledge not to text while driving.
For each student involved in this presentation, there is a different backstory. The Citizen asked each student to share those stories with our readers. We’ve compiled their stories here.
For more information about how a dedicated group of family, friends, students and teachers turned a tragedy into a life-saving law, visit the www.morgancountycitizen.com and search “Caleb’s Law.”
These students took the pledge… why don’t you?
“From befriending Alex and the Sorohan family, I have learned how dangerous the effects of texting while driving are. I have grown in my awareness and passion to stop all distracted driving to make the roads a safer place for everyone. Also, I talk about that we should not fall into the social norms of always being in communication. My name is Reed Pagett and I signed the Pledge.”
“My mother and a friend of my family were in the car that Caleb Sorohan hit when he was texting while driving. I wanted to be a part of this presentation to spread the awareness of the dangers of texting while driving and how it can affect not only the driver but everyone else on the road. This is my second year in this group and I became really close friends with everyone who is part of this presentation, especially with Alex and her family. I like to help them spread the message and turn the horrible tragedy that happened into something educational that will save many lives. My name is Jonina Frische and I signed the Pledge.”
“Watching the Sorohan family turn a horrible tragedy into something positive inspired me to be a part of this group. By texting while you’re driving, you’re putting everyone in danger. My message is targeted to adults. Just because adults have been driving longer doesn’t reduce the danger. Adults set the example for teens. Every day when I’m driving, I think about the Sorohan family and all that they have been through. The story of Caleb prevents me from making the same mistake. My name is Ellen Wilson and I signed the Pledge.”
Spreading the Word
The group will travel to Callaway Gardens to attend the 2012 Youth and Young Adult Leadership Conference on Feb. 3. In the current semester, the group will present in metro Atlanta, Gainesville, Augusta, and as far away as Stephens County.
For information about scheduling a presentation, contact Amy Saylor at Morgan County High School, via email: amy.
Printed in the February 2, 2012 edition