By Cerissa Orbegosa
It is Friday evening and as I watch the snow fall I am thinking about Greenwich youth. Two weeks ago at this time I was walking into the Transportation Association of Greenwich, TAG, and was greeted by teenage volunteers playing Cards Against Humanity, eating cones and chicken nuggets provided by Garden Catering (Old Greenwich) all while anticipating helping their peers who would call the Safe Rides Hotline that evening.
Adult volunteers discussed protocol and procedure and the teenage volunteers actively listened, genuinely interested and eager to serve their own community. I was inspired by their empathy and kindness; not only by the teenage volunteers but by the rest of the drivers and of course Garden Catering for donating their food to keep our bellies full.
Even with the snow, Greenwich youth, and youth everywhere are still headed out and congregating together. They still need to know how they are getting home and how to navigate through difficult decisions. Safe Rides provides them with the opportunity to make a positive choice by getting into an innocuous car and home safely. Youth use this wonderful service for a ride home regardless if they have been engaging in precarious behaviors. A safe haven, the listening ear of a peer, and peace/piece of mind; that is what Safe Rides provides.
This program is ran by the First Selectman’s Youth Commission once monthly; I have volunteered to be a driver twice and had a positive experience both times and will continue to volunteer. I hope that more people will dedicate their time and energy to this wonderful cause. Watching peers helping peers makes it all worth it; even when it is 1 AM in the morning! I personally got involved with Safe Rides as the United Way of Greenwich’s Post Graduate Intern. Observing Greenwich youth care about one another is evidence of these teens understanding the importance of living united as a community, advocating, giving and volunteering on a local level.
I do worry about youth on Friday evening when we are not at TAG, waiting for phone calls, going out to collect teens and drive them home safely. It is my strong belief and opinion that this program is invaluable to the town of Greenwich; not only to the teens who utilize this service, but to parents who are unable to pick up their children. This service also teaches youth to make a smart choice if they are in a position where they need to get home; it prevents dangerous driving, too many bodies in a car, as well as driving late at night.
I am looking forward to providing driving services again to Safe Rides for Prom season as well as any other Friday that I am needed. I am hopeful that this article will stimulate more teens to utilize this service, more parents to be aware of this service and possibly volunteer. As my internship advisor, Youth Service Coordinator of Greenwich Jenny Byxbee says, “If Greenwich doesn’t care about Greenwich children, who will?”
The Safe Rides contact number is (203) 869-8445.