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Glenelg High Prom Safety Week will feature visit from NASCAR driver

Kurt Busch slated to attend school assembly April 23, they say

By Joe Burris, The Baltimore Sun

11:27 AM EDT, April 12, 2012

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Glenelg High School is gearing up for its prom safe-driving events, which include a scheduled visit from NASCAR driver Kurt Busch.

School officials said Busch will be a guest speaker at a schoolwide assembly April 23, the start of Glenelg's Prom Safety Week. It is one of several safety-related events that the school is offering throughout the year.

Steve Willingham, Glenelg's student resource officer, said Busch is scheduled to talk about the importance of safe driving from his perspective as a professional driver and how speed is a factor in collisions, particularly those involving young people.

"One of our students wrote a letter to Mr. Busch requesting that he come out to our school and talk about driver safety," Willingham said. "We thought it was a long shot, and he ended up agreeing to coming out."

John Caponigro of Kurt Busch Management confirmed that Busch would attend the event at Glenelg.

Busch, a Las Vegas resident, is the 2004 NASCAR Cup Series champion and has posted 24 career racing victories and 88 finishes in the top five.

A year after he won the cup title, he was suspended by his racing team after being cited for reckless driving. He had been stopped on suspicion of driving under the influence in Arizona.

Busch could not be reached for comment about the Glenelg visit.

"I doubt if he's going to bring up something from [2005], because that's not why he's here," Willingham said. "I don't think it would be [relevant] to what we're trying to promote for our student body.

"What we look at is that the prom is coming up, graduation is coming up and Senior Week is coming up. Those three things are when a lot of celebrating is going on, and we don't want to see underage drinking, and we certainly don't want to see it when students are behind the wheel."

Willingham said Busch is scheduled to speak on the same day that Glenelg stages student demonstrations with the "Safety Bug," a modified Volkswagen Beetle that has a co-driver who simulates the reflexes of a driver under the influence.

Howard County Police Chief William J. McMahon will also take part in Prom Safety Week events.

Willingham said the school will also construct a mock accident that week, using student actors, fire engines and ambulances in the school parking lot.

"It's to show what a real accident is like," said Willingham, who added that the parking lot assembly will be for Glenelg juniors and seniors. And he said that leading up to the prom, Glenelg officials will place vehicles that were involved in collisions, along with a safety message, at each of the school's entrances.

"The students are really enthused about putting their program out," Willingham said about the students' participation in Prom Safety Week. "When students put it together, I think there's more of a likelihood that the student body will take something from that week leading up to our prom."

Willingham said the school asked him a few years ago to help emphasize safety and sound decision-making during prom, graduation and Senior Week in Ocean City.

Around the time of Senior Week, when graduates vacation in Ocean City, the beach resort will conduct the 23rd annual Play it Safe program, which includes more than 50 events for youths.

The program runs from May 31 through June 19. Events this year include rock climbing, beach volleyball and a pizza-eating contest. Lois Twilley, health educator for the Worcester County Health Department, said 11,400 students attended Play It Safe events last year.

Willingham said he spreads the word locally about the Play it Safe program.

"I'm trying to get the word out to seniors that there's a lot to do down in Ocean City, and you can do it without getting into trouble with alcohol and drugs," said Willingham.

"There are all of these chances for students to make bad decisions," he added. "We thought that that's a good week to try to bring to light some of the things that kids should be thinking about as they're thinking about all the exciting things like prom and graduation and Senior Week."

joseph.burris@baltsun.com

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