NEW BRUNSWICK – Edison High School Senior Vivian Odubanjo, 18, became a safety ambassador to highlight her college applications.
But she quickly realized her participation in Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital’s Safety Ambassador Program was far more significant.
“The kids were so attentive when we came into the room, and hearing them connect with the lessons by sharing their own stories with us was exciting,” she said. “They are small and mighty at the same time.”
Odubanjo was proud to be among more than 200 high school students in Middlesex County who this school year committed to sharing messages about injury prevention with elementary school students. Her voice mattered, and the experience also gave her opportunities to tie in lessons she was learning in anatomy and physics classes to emphasize the safety lessons she was conveying to her younger peers, which reinforced her own learning.
The high school students were recognized for their achievements on June 1 at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital’s (RWJUH) eighth annual Safety Ambassador Program Recognition Luncheon. The Safety Ambassador Program (SAP) was established with just five high and five elementary schools in Middlesex County and now counts 22 high and 27 elementary schools – more than 200 peer educators reaching nearly 3,400 elementary school students – among its participants. The goal of the program is to reduce injuries throughout the county.
Guest speaker Jenna Delacruz will lend her voice to the SAP program in the 2016-17 school year in Dunellen. At the luncheon, Delacruz shared her journey from pedestrian accident to recovery.
She sustained a serious skull injury four years ago when she was struck by a vehicle while crossing the street. Following care at The Bristol-Myers Squibb Children’s Hospital and Children’s Specialized Hospital – both now part of the RWJBarnabas Health System – Delacruz made a full recovery. The 17-year-old disclosed that the luncheon was her first public speaking engagement. Looking back and recounting her journey elicited a range of emotions, but she felt strongly that it was important to share her story, to help others.
“Coming back and giving back is such a good feeling,” Delacruz said. “Sharing my story is a way to let kids know it’s important to be more aware of your surroundings and to learn at a young age that accidents happen.”
Participating high school juniors and seniors start to prepare for the SAP in October, when they attend a “Safety Summit.” There, RWJUH’s Injury Prevention team and hospital clinicians talk to the safety ambassadors about the four risk areas they would be addressing – fall prevention; pedestrian safety; wheeled sports/helmet safety and safety in and around cars.
Students learn how to effectively communicate key messages to first and second graders. With guidance from volunteer resources and program advisors, they then prepare interactive and engaging safety lessons for elementary students. The lessons are presented between February and May at their participating district elementary school(s).