Meet a modern day superwoman. A Senior in high school, Laura Saldivar has a resume most college grads wish they had. Before the age of 17, she implemented teen driving safety programs in Illinois through several educational outreach programs. As an advocate for service learning, the implementation of several safe driving outreach programs, like the Jacobs Safety Initiative, has helped reduce the number of youth fatalities in motor vehicle accidents. The Jacobs Safety Initiative led to the creation of another safe driving program in Qatar, a country which, according to Laura, has the “second highest car accident rate per capita in the world.” With an impressive and extensive resume, the road towards success has not been so easy. “Acquiring support from administrative staff has been difficult”, says Laura, but she advices teens to “start searching, go for it, and don’t be afraid.” With hard work, passion, and determination, any teen can follow in Laura’s footsteps and be the next modern Superwoman. Here’s what she had to say when asked about her accomplishments, dreams and advice for teens:
1. What influenced you to become heavily involved with driving educational outreach programs?
With car crashes becoming the number one killer of teens I felt it was imperative to create prevention programs in my community. If I am able to save just one life I have done my job. Also, having a parent that is a driver’s education teacher, I have seen firsthand the impact car crashes have on families.
2. By being involved with so many organizations, what valuable lessons have you learned? How have they helped shape who you are today?
With being involved in a variety of groups like Youth Service America’s Youth Council, I have been able to gain multiple life skills. I can now write grants and budgets for projects, public speak, create presentations, and have self confidence. Before starting my service work, I was a shy student and service-learning is really what broke me out of my shell. The opportunities that have been an outcome of my work are truly incredible. I am able to travel the country, I helped to start a teen safe driving program in Asia, have been a keynote speaker, helped to write a civic blueprint for my state, and have had my own TV show all before the age of 17. My different boards have helped make me the leader I am today and have helped me to spread my message of teen safe driving to a broader audience. I am now able to help other schools around the country start their own programs and also gain the support of my fellow board members. The networks formed on national youth councils help to sustain and better youth programs.
3. You’re a busy young woman with an impressive resume, how do you handle the stress and find time to do it all? Any time management secrets?
With all of my time commitments I always keep a planner by my side. This not only has helped me keep track of my service work but has also helped me a lot in school. It keeps me very organized and if I miss a day of school for a service event I always let my teacher know in advance. In addition, I always make timelines for projects. As silly as it sounds, it helps my projects to run smoothly and it helps me to stay on track with project planning. It is small organizational tricks like this that help keep me afloat!
4.What are your plans after high school?
After high school I think it is only fitting for me to continue my safe driving work! I hope to attend the University of Illinois and create my own major in Community Leadership and Civic Engagement. I hope to one day open my own center for car crash victims and to work for either the National Safety Council or the Department of Transportation.
5. What advice would you give to girls who want to implement an educational outreach program and events at their local high school?
For starting a project in your community it is very important to start small! First, determine a need within your community and a find a group of youth who are also passionate about this issue. Next, it is important to find an adult sponsor or mentor who will help guide and support your program. Since your program will be primarily youth led, it is important to determine what resources are available and what community partnerships you can form. These partners can help you measure your results of impact and help to sustain your program for following years. Youth Service America is also a great resource when it comes to funding and finding different service opportunities. Their online newsletter contains a variety of service grants that youth can fill out. Most projects can be free and be community donated items. It might also be beneficial to include different classes at your school to help you solve the issue. (Ex. Safe Driving: Business Class- brochures, Math-Statistics, Art- safe driving posters, band- safe driving school song, drivers education-create PSAs, etc.)
6. How can other Latinitas become more involved with the community?
Another way to get involved within your community is to log onto gysd.org. GYSD is one of Youth Service America’s major projects called Global Youth Service Day. This day is the largest service event in the world and reaches over 100 countries. By logging on to their website, you can find local projects in your area that you can help out with on April 20-22, 2012. This website also contains an online toolkit that will help guide you in the creation of your own projects. This year I am helping the Illinois Students Against Destructive Decisions Student Advisory Board to implement a project called Dome Shift. We are inviting all of the SADD chapters in the state to a series of workshops on different issues and then letting participants meet with their representatives. All in all, when joining different nonprofits, they can help support your program and train you to learn even more.
Laura Saldivar, photo courtesy from Discusawards.com.