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Teens honored for responsible rides

Santa Clarita Valley students receive recognition for effort to make local roads safer

Posted: April 24, 2011 1:30 a.m.
Updated: April 24, 2011 1:30 a.m.

Santa Clarita Valley Safe Rides volunteers were honored at the organization’s 24th annual recognition dinner last month. During 2010, student volunteers helped 1,349 teens avoid driving under the influence of alcohol through the program, which offers students a free and confidential ride home every Friday and Saturday night.

Santa Clarita Valley Safe Rides honored teen volunteers with a recognition dinner recently for their service keeping more than 1,000 potentially drunken drivers of the streets during the past school year.

The program matches up dedicated young volunteers who staff a dispatch center and send drivers to pick up other teens who report being unfit to get behind the wheel on Friday or Saturday nights — or being afraid to join another driver in a vehicle.

In 2010, the program’s student volunteers helped 1,349 teens avoid getting into a car with a driver under the influence of alcohol.

Since 1986, the program has given students the opportunity to save their fellow peers by providing a free, confidential ride home every Friday and Saturday night from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Created after six local high school students were killed in car crashes in little more than a year, Santa Clarita Valley Safe Rides was co-foundered by Penny Upton and Betty Burke-Oldfield.

Their mission: Provide a free, confidential ride home for teenagers who are not in a condition to drive, and for those who don’t want to ride with an unsafe driver.

The program’s success rests on the shoulders of its student volunteers and their willingness to save their fellow peers from
drinking and driving.

At the recognition ceremony last month, co-President Christina Stewart said the determination of the members and the desire for a safer community is what makes Safe Rides successful.

“SCV Safe Rides is a vital program that benefits the entire community by making the roads more safe to drive on,” Upton said.

As Mayor Marsha McLean said at the ceremony, “We are a city like no other. ... I’m so proud of the teens who do this.”

In addition to their willingness to give up their Friday and Saturday nights, volunteers go through extensive training, attend monthly meetings and coordinate with other organizations in various activities.

Along with the Contemporary Car Club, Safe Rides helps coordinate car shows hosted by Route 66 restaurant in Canyon Country from May through October.

The teen volunteers are honored each year at the recognition dinner. Those with top hours volunteered received special recognition from the city of Santa Clarita, as well as other government officials.

The Norman Award for the Outstanding Member, named after Robin Norman, three-time recipient, was given to Lauren Blachowiak, who volunteered 169 hours in 2010.

From the city of Santa Clarita: Alicia Cortada (62 hours), Kristin Farrel (63 hours), Katie Farber (66 hours) and Jeremy Taylor (68 hours).

From Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich: Amara Sulham (70 hours), Da Vaughn Smith (70 hours), Madeline Altieri (70 hours), Kimberly Munson (70 hours), Cara Trepp (73 hours), Michael Bailey (74 hours) and Andrew Cano (78 hours).

From Assemblyman Cameron Smyth: Colton Korne (80 hours), Sean McDonald (86 hours), Casey McKay (92 hours) and Kyle Brees (93 hours).

From Senator Sharon Runner: Tevin Schmitt (154 hours), Kyle Feuer (142 hours), Christina Stewart (132 hours), Hunter Hinesly (121 hours) and Jennifer Hernandez (116).

Teen officers of Safe Rides are Stewart and Kyle Brees, co-presidents; Sean McDonald, vice president; Amara Sulham, secretary; and Jennifer Hernandez, treasurer.

While the teens are the heart of the program, McDonald said the adult supervisors are its unsung heroes, especially Upton, who has overseen the program for the past 25 years.

“The students may go out on the calls and pick up those in need of a ride,” McDonald said, “but it is the adult supervisors who make sure (the teen members) get back safely. Without structure there is no order; without supervisors there is no Safe Rides.”

Safe Rides organizers are searching for alumni to celebrate the group’s 25th anniversary. Information will soon be posted on the website


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