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"Choices Matter" Assembly Inspires and Empowers Students

The Delaware Office of Highway Safety (OHS) partnered with nationally known speaker Cara Filler to present an assembly to the Upper School students on February 26th. In introducing Ms. Filler to the audience, Ally Colgan '20 noted that the Canadian-born woman now lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and teenage son, but travels the country giving more than 200 talks each year on the topic of making safe choices, especially related to driving. Filler’s passion for educating and inspiring young people to make good choices sprang from seemingly insurmountable grief.
Filler began her presentation by asking everyone in the audience to close their eyes and think of one very important person in their lives. She then asked them to consider how they would feel if that person was suddenly taken away from them forever. That is exactly what happened to Filler one day after her 18th birthday when her twin sister, Mairin, died in a high-speed car crash caused by the reckless driving of her new boyfriend in his sports car.

By using examples from her personal life, Filler made the consequences of actions seem very real. "My sister’s life was reduced to a statistical number on a piece of paper in a police office." The boyfriend was fined $150 and, while he was sentenced to a longer term, he served a total of 15 days in jail. "That is what my sister’s life was worth," continued Filler, "but to me and many others, it was worth so much more."

Filler repeatedly told the students that hers was not a complicated message. Because car crashes are the #1 cause of death for people under the age of 25, Filler simply wanted to offer the students the option of considering smarter choices in order to stay alive to fulfill their hopes, dreams, and plans.

"Speak up for yourselves. If you are in a situation and see someone unable to do this, don’t be afraid to stick your neck out for your friends and speak up on their behalf. It might just keep them alive," encouraged Filler. To help achieve the goal of staying safe, Filler offered 4 suggestions:
  • Do not get in a car with someone known to be a reckless driver.
  • Phone your parents for a ride before getting into a dangerous car situation.
  • Find a way to SAFELY get out of a car if the driver is impaired or reckless.
  • Lie if you have to. Say you need to stop the car so you can urinate or vomit.
While the talk was very poignant and emotional, Filler used lots of humor, often self-deprecating, to make her points. She made easy and comfortable connections with the students in the audience, and many of them waited after the assembly to speak with her personally. Keeleigh Babcock '20 remarked: "This was the best presentation about making good choices that we have ever had at Sanford. The courage it took for Cara to share her story made the message so powerful. I appreciated that she did not preach to us; instead, she offered us reasonable options to use when making decisions."

The Geipel lobby was a busy place after the talk, as Alliance Marketing in conjunction with OHS had several interactive activities available for the students, along with free tee shirts and safety brochures. A virtual reality simulator allowed students to experience and react to various situations while at the wheel of a car. Students could also don googles that replicated intoxication and then complete a sobriety test. "I felt so disoriented," said Asia Blackwell '20, "and I could not even walk steady on the line in the lobby. Clearly, drinking and driving is a bad option. If I could not find the line Geipel, what would happen behind the wheel on the road?"

Marketing Alliance representative Emmitt Best shared: "It is so important for students to know that they have choices to help them arrive safely to their destinations. That is why we are happy to be a part of school assemblies such as this one." Max Steiner '22, a newly licensed driver, provided this observation: "It is so easy to forget all that can happen when you are driving. Today’s presentation put what Mr. Galbraith (Sanford drivers education instructor) taught us into a very real situation. It reminded me of the dangers associated with driving and the responsibilities drivers have to be aware of them-for their own safety and the safety of others."

Filler can be reached on her website: carafiller.com

OHS’s website is ohs.delaware.gov

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