Outstanding Student Activist Award
Award Recipient: Taylor Childers, Pittsburgh, PA
Nominator: Traci Van Dyke, Victim Services Specialist, MADD Western Region Chapter PA
Award Presented By: Honorable Stephen Zappala, District Attorney, Allegheny County
Ms. Taylor Childers, age 17, exemplifies how one can work through trauma and redirect grief and pain into an energy that is a light of hope for victims and survivors. Ms. Childers has contributed to the victim service movement by not only educating national, state and county officials, but also by educating offenders, her peers and community residents.
On April 5, 2008, Ms. Childers and her best friend, Tia Wright, became victims in a drunk driving crash. Ms. Childers was trapped in the vehicle and sustained a head injury; Tia Wright died in the seat next to her.
Ms. Childers uses her experience as a victim of a DUI crash to help her community learn of the serious consequences of driving under the influence (DUI). Her efforts include serving as a Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) youth volunteer, providing criminal justice support to other teens who have lost loved ones through DUI, and sharing her story at DUI Victim Impact panels coordinated by MADD's Western Regional Affiliate.
Perhaps what most distinguishes Ms. Childers in her efforts as a student activist is her ongoing outreach to her peers and personal commitment to prevention of DUI injuries and deaths. After the crash, Ms. Childers coordinated an event to remember her friend, Tia Wright, and educate her peers about MADD services and DUI prevention. Spurred by Ms. Childers' example, her peers developed a t-shirt with one of MADD's logos, "We'll Remember You" with a broken heart on it as a silent message of support. Ms. Childers also personally worked with a local beer distributor and coordinated volunteers for "Operation Sticker Shock", a Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board Program that places official stickers on alcohol for sale, indicating that it is illegal in the State of Pennsylvania to purchase alcohol for minors. The Pittsburgh Steelers organization invited her to speak to players and share her story following the arrest of Steelers rookie for DUI. Finally, the City of Pittsburgh televised a Post-Agenda Meeting on the topic of DUI and featured Ms. Childers and the parents of Tia Wright.
Ms. Childers is currently a student at Thomas Jefferson High School in Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, where she is a cheerleader, member of Student Council, participant in Dancing with the Athletes, the school musical, and maintains a 3.33 GPA.
Although Ms. Childers was a victim of crime, she has found ways to work through the tragedy and assist her peers and educate the community about the seriousness of driving under the influence.
On behalf of victims of crime and the victim service's field, we thank you Ms. Childers for your innovation, collaboration and unfailing commitment to victims of crime.