It Can Wait Message....Can't Wait

Left to right:  Superintendent Dave Bennardo, Officer Andrew Fiorello, Mr. Brandon Ray, Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci, and Principal Kathleen Acker.
Left to right: Superintendent Dave Bennardo, Officer Andrew Fiorello, Mr. Brandon Ray, Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci, and Principal Kathleen Acker.
Thank you Mr. Brandon Ray of AT&T for their commitment and support to this important cause.
Thank you Mr. Brandon Ray of AT&T for their commitment and support to this important cause.
Officer ‘Drew” is a respected and greatly appreciated member of our community.
Officer ‘Drew” is a respected and greatly appreciated member of our community.
Whitman seniors take a moment to pause and think about the dangers of texting while driving.
Whitman seniors take a moment to pause and think about the dangers of texting while driving.
Assemblyman Lupinacci and Principal Acker are first in line to pledge their commitment.
Assemblyman Lupinacci and Principal Acker are first in line to pledge their commitment.
Senior Ruby Bafu shows she is serious and commits to the pledge.
Senior Ruby Bafu shows she is serious and commits to the pledge.
Students were allowed online during the program to pledge their support.
Students were allowed online during the program to pledge their support.
Students with Assemblyman Lupinacci and several of the many pledge posters.
Students with Assemblyman Lupinacci and several of the many pledge posters.

This past Thursday morning, Walt Whitman seniors gathered for a sobering assembly. The program “It Can Wait” was an anti-texting while driving program sponsored by AT&T and State Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci. “Texting while driving has become an all-too-familiar end for so many families,” said Lupinacci. “Too often, these tragic accidents could have been prevented by drivers’ simply putting down the phone and waiting to text until they’ve arrived safely at their destination.”

The program was opened by Principal Kathleen Acker as she introduced Suffolk County Police Department School Resource Officer Drew Fiorello; Brandon V. Ray, AT&T External Affairs for Long Island; and Assemblyman Lupinacci. Officer Fiorello spoke with the students about tough new laws that now make using a hand-held mobile phone a violation that carries 5 driver violation points. Higher fines are also in effect, as is automatic driver’s license suspension for drivers on probationary licenses or learner permits.

What really got everyone’s attention was an emotionally charged 10-minute YouTube video clip called “The Last Text.” This was a heartfelt true account of lives lost and the very last texts as displayed on their phones. Brandon Ray shared with the students what AT&T is doing to help combat this deadly compulsion. The Whitman seniors, in an unusual moment of cell phone permission within the school, were able to pledge on the spot and then signed pledge cards promising to never text while driving.

“Today was special because it provided our school community the chance for open, honest dialogue about a very real public health concern,” said program attendee and Schools Superintendent Dr. David Bennardo.  “Texting and driving is not just a teenage issue. It is a nationwide problem that transcends generations and impacts us all,” Dr. Bennardo said. “We are all so accustomed to immediate communication that the temptation to quickly connect with business associates, family members, and friends often clouds our better judgment.”

“Principal Acker summed it up best when she said ‘No message is as important as the lives of our students, family, and friends.’” Dr. Bennardo said. “No text is worth the cost of a life.”

“We are so pleased that New York State Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci and officials from Walt Whitman High School are joining us today to help get the message across that no text is worth dying for,” said Marissa Shorenstein, President of New York AT&T.  “We thank Assemblyman Lupinacci, AT&T, Officer Fiorello, and the staff and administration at Walt Whitman for taking the time to share that message and remind us all that the text can wait until the car has stopped,” concluded Superintendent Bennardo.