Aberdeen Central student wins first place nationwide in distracted driving PSA challenge

ABERDEEN, S.D.(Press Release) – When Central High School senior Katelyn Ryan decided to enter a national public service announcement challenge, she needed to think of an idea that would make an impact.

“I just sat down for about five minutes thinking about: If I saw a commercial and I was actually going to pay attention to it, what would it say?” she said.

Ryan’s idea made a lot of people pay attention—her powerful video about the dangers of distracted driving won first place in the nation. She earned the top prize of $2,750 in the #DrivingSkills101 Public Service Announcement challenge, co-sponsored by Students Against Destructive Decisions and the National Road Safety Foundation.

As part of the prize, Ryan worked with an Emmy Award-winning production team to create the PSA. Her video, starring several CHS students, shows how driving while distracted could keep students from life’s milestones—illustrated by their smiling faces disappearing from photos.

The video ends with the message: “Don’t risk your future. Don’t stay silent. Passengers have power. Speak up!”

To Ryan, who serves as secretary of Central’s SADD chapter, it’s a very important message—especially for kids her age.

“Probably the most dangerous thing that some of us do is drive, especially in South Dakota,” she said. “At 14, kids are driving; at 13, they’re learning to drive. So I think it’s really important to get that out there because people just don’t take it as seriously as it is.”

Ryan is grateful to her friends who acted in the PSA—Abiah George, Rylan Johnson, Kaleb Ringgenberg, David Schlotte, Adriana Soundara, Sage Wilson and Breanna Wollman. She’s also thankful for the support from SADD Advisor Elizabeth Ketterling, and she intends to donate a portion of her prize money to the Central chapter. The rest will go toward college, where she plans to major in biology on her way to medical school or veterinary school.

Looking back, Ryan said she initially wasn’t planning on entering the PSA challenge. But one of the local SADD members asked her to enter, so she did—and she ended up winning it all.

That leads to another important message Ryan has for students.

“Just get involved,” she said. “If somebody asks you to do something, just do it. I took maybe 10 minutes to submit my video, and I ended up being able to work with Emmy Award-winning directors. It’s going to be on over 60 TV channels. That’s something I never would’ve imagined.”

View Ryan’s award-winning PSA, which was also shared on SADD’s social media channels, here.