Writer: Justin Bannister, 575-646-5981, email@example.com
Jail time isn't the worst thing that could happen to a teenager who decides to drink and drive. People die every day in car crashes caused by drunk drivers and that's a message Thomas Judd, the newly elected Dona Ana County 4-H council president and a junior at Onate High School in Las Cruces, wants everyone to hear.
Judd recently placed first in both the county and state 4-H general public speaking competitions. He talks about the dangers of drinking and driving during his speech and will take that same message to the National Association of Youth Courts during the organization's national meeting Nov. 12 in Albuquerque. Judd also will deliver a similar message Jan. 7-11 during the 4-H Western National Roundup in Denver. The New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service operates the Dona Ana County 4-H through the Dona Ana County Extension Office.
"It's a great honor. I want to inspire other students," Judd said. "I think drunk driving is a really big topic among teenagers. Something could happen. My friends and the general public need to know."
"Kids need to see there are consequences in life," said Toni Hernandez, executive director of Dona Ana County Teen Court. The agency runs the "Every 15 Minutes" program, where local hospitals, law enforcement, businesses and others come together to show teenagers that the dangers of drinking and driving are real. Dona Ana County Teen Court will take part in the National Association of Youth Courts conference later this month where Judd will speak.
Judd ends his drunk driving speech with a letter he's written to his 11-month-old sister, telling her the things he would want her to know if he had died in an alcohol-related crash. Students who take part in the Every 15 Minutes program write similar letters to their loved ones.
"If we can show teenagers that this is what really happens, they can't say they didn't know the next time they have to make that choice," Hernandez said.
In addition to Judd's first place finishes in general public speaking, he also placed first in the county and the state in impromptu public speaking, a first in New Mexico history. Judd is still undecided on where he plans to attend college, but knows he wants to study a combination of public speaking, public relations and advertising.
"In 4-H, we have dynamic kids," said Eva Madrid, the Dona Ana County 4-H agent. "It's very rewarding to see our 4-H members develop life skills and excel."
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