In collaboration with State Farm®, Vision Zero, and Los Angeles Unified School District, Los Angeles Rams punter JOHNNY HEKKERand cheerleaders* *surprised students at Columbus Middle School in Canoga Park on Friday, May 18 to announce the school as the winner of the 'Street Safety Hero Pledge' contest after its students submitted the highest number of pledges (391) to saferoutes.lacity.org/pledge.
As part of the program, Hekker led a discussion about the importance of traffic safety and fielded questions from the audience in a Q&A session. Students also participated in a raffle where they had the opportunity to win autographed merchandise and four tickets to a Rams home game on Sunday, September 23, when the team hosts the Los Angeles Chargers at the LA Memorial Coliseum.
"To come here and celebrate these kids for submitting the most pledges out of any school in the Los Angeles Unified School District is awesome," said Hekker. "We're celebrating that achievement, but we're also trying to inspire them and show them that we care about what they're doing and we're proud of the effort they've put in."
Principal Debra McIntyre-Sciarrino believes Hekker's surprise visit left its mark on the Columbus Middle School students. During the program's Q&A session, students were excited to ask Hekker questions about his journey to the NFL and his traffic safety practices. As Hekker shared stories from his past and his thoughts about the importance of safety, the packed auditorium listened attentively. Principal McIntyre-Sciarrino hopes that her students integrate some of Hekker's 'Street Safety Hero' tips into their own safety practices.
"My students were very excited and felt proud that the Rams organization, LADOT, Board Member Schmerelson, and State Farm Insurance came to recognize their efforts," said McIntyre-Sciarrino. "The fact that Johnny Hekker came to school was fantastic. The students felt special and they loved the Q&A portion of the event. I believe anything we can do to raise our students' awareness about how the choices they make affects their lives is important and I think this campaign empowered the students to take action. Hopefully, they will be more careful as they ride their skateboard, bike, and walk the streets of LA."
While the event at Columbus Middle School recognized the 'Street Safety Pledge' winners, the initiative served as a citywide reminder for youth and adults to use cautionary traffic procedures to improve traffic safety throughout Los Angeles. A total of 40 L.A. Unified middle schools participated in the program and more than 4,000 students in the city of Los Angeles signed the 'Street Safety Hero Pledge.'
"Students should be able to get to school safely every day and make it home safely every night," said LADOT General Manager Seleta Reynolds. "LADOT teamed up with the LA Rams, State Farm, and L.A. Unified to inspire students be Safety Heroes and remind adults that they can save lives and be heroes too."
The program launched in September 2017, when Hekker, the Rams, and State Farm joined the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) to help educate fans about Vision Zero, the city's initiative to eliminate traffic deaths by 2025. Through a PSA campaign with Los Angeles Mayor ERIC GARCETTI, Hekker supported educational efforts about the traffic safety initiative during last year's NFL season. Through the Rams and State Farm relationship, each of Hekker's punts downed inside the 20-yard line during the 2017 season triggered an on-air radio reminder to fans to drive safely and take the Vision Zero pledge at visionzero.lacity.org.
"I was honored that our city asked me to participate in this program," Hekker said. "There's nothing more important than road safety. This was a unique way to remind Angelenos that everyone using the city streets – whether driving, walking or bicycling – should have the chance to get where they need to go safely."
About SRTS: Safe Routes to School Los Angeles is a partnership with the City of Los Angeles and L.A. Unified to improve traffic safety for students on their way to school. Safe Routes is a program under Vision Zero, the City's goal to eliminate traffic deaths. The Street Hero Safety Pledge asked students to commit to being Street Safety Heroes by reminding parents and other drivers to check their speed, watch out for people walking and biking, and drive without distractions. Students who walk to school also committed to look left, look right, and look left again before crossing the street. This pledge is part of a series of Safe Routes education efforts to instill the values of road safety before students get behind the wheel of a car.
For more information about the Rams' community outreach efforts, please visit therams.com/community.