SafeRides celebrates three years of campus leadership
By Caitlin Harrison ('10)
Caitlin Harrison ('10), far right, with JMU SafeRides members at the 2010 national conference at Texas A&M.
In 2002, Lyndsey Walther-Thomas ('03) returned to campus from a student government conference at Texas A&M with a dream of starting an organization based on Texas A&M's CARPOOL (Caring Aggies R Protecting Over Our Lives), a designated driving program that serves the College Station area.
"I wanted SafeRides to be the kind of organization that attracted, developed and cultivated student leaders on campus," says Walther-Thomas. "Drinking is a huge issue on most college campuses, so the idea of having the premier leaders at JMU helping their peers make better choices was incredibly exciting."
Although Walther-Thomas began researching the program in 2001, it was not recognized as an organization by JMU until spring 2003. The executive members applied for 501(c)(3) status in 2006, and on Feb. 16, 2007, SafeRides began offering safe rides home. Since 2007, SafeRides has been serving the JMU community during academic semesters, driving students home on Fridays and Saturdays from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m.
"After becoming a nonprofit corporation with total liability and damage insurance coverage through Enterprise, and raising enough funds for a $700-a-weekend operation, Safe-Rides was finally able to run," says Parks Watson ('10), Safe-Rides executive. "Since then we have given over 17,000 rides."
The SafeRides executive director oversees the directors and team leaders. The group's general body members are divided into eight teams that are guided by student team leaders. The official color of SafeRides is Cali-blue, and members wear Cali-blue T-shirts.
"My favorite thing about SafeRides is the members," said Jessica Lake ('12). "All the members are so friendly and nice; so you always feel welcome. All the members are so passionate about SafeRides."
In February, six members of SafeRides attended the national Safe Rides Programs Unite conference at Texas A&M with students from 11 other universities. CARPOOL facilitated discussions about fundraising, operating driving programs and risk management. JMU's SafeRides members presented on member relations, and JMU was voted to host the 2012 national SRPU conference.
At JMU, SafeRides members educate the campus community about the dangers of drunk driving. During fall semester, SafeRides presents the program "One Night, One Ride, One Life," and members invite a guest speaker to discuss how drunk driving affected their lives.
"[I love] being able to work with such a passionate group of students," said Kristin Gardner ('04M), the organization's staff adviser. "The group is amazing and so dedicated to serving the JMU community and volunteer their own time to educate and ensure their peers are safe."