Roanoke County student wins new car, two others given MacBook Airs during After Prom Grand Finale

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Photo by Shawn Nowlin
Roanoke County teen Brianna Hodges trying to contain her enthusiasm after K-92’s Zack Jackson announces that she just won a new car.
Shawn Nowlin shawn.nowlin@ourvalley.org

School is almost over for high school students, which means that roads are about to be full of even more teen drivers. Local educators like Dee Sheffer are always willing to help teenagers become more comfortable behind the wheel and provide answers to any questions that they may have.

“I have learned that the best teen drivers become educated about safe driving and make it their focus. They do not take risks. They wear their seatbelts and insist that their passengers do the same,” Sheffer, a former English teacher at Lord Botetourt High, said. “They also follow the speed limits and do not let phones or other distractions take their attention from the road.”

K-92’s Freddy Mac calling a teenager on stage.

The After Prom Grand Finale takes place at the end of every school year. The annual event celebrates high school juniors and seniors who make the smart choice to stay alcohol and drug-free on prom night by staying until the end of their school’s after-prom party. All high schools in Southwest Virginia are invited yearly to participate, and a select number of teens have the opportunity to win valuable prizes, including a new car.

Over 200 students attended the 31st Annual After Prom Grand Finale on June 2 at the Salem Civic Center. Last Sunday’s event was emceed by K-92’s Freddy Mac and Zack Jackson.

YOVASO sponsor giving teen drivers some advice.

Three teenagers, Brianna Hodges, Logan Miller from Bath County High School and Bienvenue Amani from William Fleming High School, unlocked one of the three potential key fobs to a 2019 Nissan Kicks SV donated by First Team Nissan. It was Hodges, a student at William Byrd High, who won the grand prize. Amani and Miller were given a new MacBook Air.

Teen drivers face an increasing number of distractions: music, talking passengers and cell phones. Said Mac, “As much as students often fight it – rules are good. We’ve all been there and hated the rules that our parents put in place, but looking back, I’m so grateful for that structure. Most people become an adult and realize that their parents had their best interest at heart all along.”

Both Casey Taylor and Kendall Lythgoe work for Youth of Virginia Speak Out (YOVASO).

“I’m the Program Development Coordinator. After 30 years under the fruitful ownership of the Roanoke Area Youth Substance Abuse Coalition (RAYSAC), the After Prom Grand Finale is now under the ownership of the YOVASO Advisory Board,” Taylor said. “My role with this year’s event was to operate the information table. We talked to a number of students about the importance of making good choices behind the wheel and passed out information and incentive items, including sunglasses and key chains.”

Salem High student Gabe Franklin trying to unlock one of the key fobs.

Said Lythgoe, a YOVASO Regional Trainer, “As parents, it’s critical to make sure that teens know the rules of the road, the risks associated with being young drivers and how to be responsible behind the wheel. Driving is a privilege, not a right.”

As the After Prom Grand Finale Coordinator, Becky Parr is responsible for school outreach, event coordination, fundraising, volunteer recruitment, data evaluation and public relations.

In the past 31 years, none of the participating schools have suffered the tragedy of a drug or alcohol-related crash on prom night.

“It is important for the community to support school after-prom parties and the After Prom Grand Finale event,” Parr said. “The schools do a great job of entertaining the students after prom, but the After Prom Grand Finale is an extra incentive for them to stay until the very end.  If they leave too early, then teens will be at risk for dangerous behavior on one of the most important nights of their young lives.”