CRESTVIEW — Overcoming adversity at school and in her personal life, a Crestview High School senior has turned tragedy into an anti-texting-and-driving awareness campaign at the school.
For her efforts, the Crestview Exchange Club named Jackie Hanners its Youth of the Month Award recipient.
Sending a message
"I grew up in a loving family" despite relatives’ alcoholism and drug abuse, Jackie said. "I grew up through all that."
When Jackie’s father died in 2010, her best friend, Megan Warman, helped her through the difficult days and weeks that followed.
Jackie joined Megan on the school volleyball team to take attention from her loss, "but it was real hard," she said.
On Jan. 27, 2011, Megan lost control of her car while texting en route to Northwest Florida State College. She lingered 10 days in a coma before succumbing to injuries sustained in the multiple rollover.
"I decided I wanted to do something about it," Jackie said.
She wanted to send a message to classmates about the hazards of texting and driving.
Collaborating with the school's leadership class and former school resource officer Corp. Greg Porch, Jackie started a don't-text-and-drive campaign. It helped Jackie focus on the future and eased her through her losses.
"I still managed to keep my grades great," Jackie said. "I don't know how, but I did it."
Jackie is dual-enrolled at Northwest Florida State, where she maintains a 4.0 grade point average. She's been accepted in Florida State University's biological science program with an eye on a future medical career.
Dual enrollment was tough, she said.
"It really kicked my butt, but oh yeah, I can do this," Jackie said.
She’s been involved with FSU SSTRIDES, or Science Students Together Reaching Instructional Diversity and Excellence, a medical and sciences outreach program, since eighth grade.
"Helping people — whether it is medical or just hearing someone out — it fills me up," Jackie said.
Jackie told Exchange Club members her good grades come from her own initiative.
"My mom's never been the one to keep after me with, 'Hey, you got your grades up?'" Jackie said. "I have always been the one to do it myself. I told myself, "I gotta do this.'"
Vying for a $500 Exchange Club college scholarship, Jackie and five other Crestview students similarly honored during the school year must write an essay to be judged by the Exchange Club, member Sharlene Cox said. Students will be judged not only by the essay, but by involvement in school activities, academics and sports.
The winner will go to the state Exchange Club convention in Cocoa Beach to contend for a $2,500 scholarship with Youth of the Month scholarship winners from throughout the state.
Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Brian Hughes at 850-682-6524 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cnbBrian.