LITCHFIELD, Minn. - Classes at Litchfield High School were canceled Tuesday, but only for three sophomores who won the right to shoot a public service announcement on distracted driving in their school.
Mary Ridgeway, Taylor Smith and Grace Larsen are part of the group FCCLA or Family, Career and Community Leaders of America. The teens submitted a one-minute video in a national completion against 56 other schools.
The point of the PSA was to get students to limit the number of passengers in a vehicle. The girls had to somehow portray that. The concept the girls came up with was one of the girls had died in a distracted driving crash and is now writing her parents a letter from heaven apologizing.
“It was really exciting we did not expect to win, we hoped for it but there were a lot of people entered in the contest. We were just happy to get it in,” Smith says.
The students got to work with a New York production crew to help professionally put the PSA together.
“We were so surprised. It’s a pretty big prize, it’s a big accomplishment,” FCCLA teacher Katie McGraw says. The chapter also won a $3,500 prize and their PSA will air on more than 220 TV stations this year.
For the girls, the school and their group -- there was more to making the PSA and winning the contest.
“Marcus’ accident touched the whole community,” McGraw says. “In some way, everyone knew Marcus or someone knew someone that did. It’s still fresh in everyone’s mind.”
Marcus Huhn, 16, was driving to work one morning last March when his car veered off the road. He wasn’t wearing a seatbelt and was thrown from the car.
Huhn was the only person in the car, but authorities believe he was distracted driving.
"There's a lot of pride and a lot of joy that they could take a bad situation and find some good in it," says Marcus' grandmother, Janet, who also works at Litchfield High School
“Marcus always seemed to see the best in people. He showed me that so many times, it astounded me,” Janet added. "I think he would want us to go on and do good things and use his memory for good."
The school still has a photo of Marcus in its entryway.
“Everyone is affected by this, our school is not very big so when someone is not there anymore we notice,” Smith says.
The PSA will air on an upcoming episode of Teen Kids News which does not yet have an air date. It may also be part of a nationwide anti-distracted driving campaign for the National Road Safety Foundation.