Student Passion Drives Academic Success

by Jaylea Falk
Eureka High School Student
Eureka, Calif.

Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of essays from Project Ignition students. Inspired? Get involved in Project Ignition by applying for a $2,000 grant, due November 15, to address teen driver safety through service-learning. Visit Project Ignition is coordinated by the National Youth Leadership Council® and funded by State Farm®.

From seat belt surveys to impaired driving simulators to influencing legislation, student-led teen driver safety activities create incredible behavior changes. Our efforts at Eureka High School have been credited by Humboldt County Department of Public Health for reducing teen car crashes by 33 percent in the past five years. 

However, what I’d like to tell you about is the impact Project Ignition has had on me as an individual. I started with Project Ignition as a freshman in high school. I took the service-learning class and my teacher, Mrs. Johnson, asked me to help with little parts of the project. I started to love working with Project Ignition and our campaign, Drive 2 Stay Alive, and couldn’t imagine doing anything else. We received the grant that year for the first time and traveled to Nashville, Tenn. to present our project. After that first year, I took over as project director and have been ever since.

Academically, I have become a much better writer and speaker because I write and speak about something I am passionate about. I have written and our school has received seven grants from State Farm — that is an experience that will help me so much later in life. We recently received an $87,216 State Farm Youth Advisory Board grant to expand the reach of our teen driver safety campaign.

I have presented to countless groups including workshops at the National Service-Learning Conference. I have traveled throughout the state of California and beyond, speaking in schools and communities. I have had the opportunity to see so many places because I am part of the California Youth Council and of course, Project Ignition.

While speaking and writing are my passions and strengths, what’s cool about Project Ignition is because there are so many different aspects of teen driver safety, every kid and teacher can find something they love to do. In math class, students study our county’s crash statistics. In science, students do activities to demonstrate and then examine the effect of impact on a human brain. In English, students write personal essays and in computer classes students make posters to raise awareness. 

As a young person, I was often told or sent the subtle message that I couldn’t step up and be a leader in my community. Project Ignition, State Farm and the National Youth Leadership Council created opportunities that proved to me that I am a leader and I can create meaningful change in my community and the world. I have learned what I have to say does matter and people will listen.

Photo: Jaylea Falk assists a peer with her seat belt during Eureka High School's National Teen Driver Safety Week Rally.