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Student Winners Announced for 9th Annual “Project Yellow Light” Scholarship Contest to Raise Awareness of Dangers of Texting and Driving

Winning Public Service Advertisements Created by High School and College Students (PSAs) Premiere Nationally

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 29, 2020 Today the Ad Council and Project Yellow Light announced the winners of the ninth annual Project Yellow Light scholarship competition. The contest involves students creating a TV, radio or billboard PSA to educate their peers about the dangers of distracted driving, specifically the dangers of using a phone while driving. The winning PSAs will be revealed today on a digital billboard in New York City’s Times Square, in space donated by Clear Channel Outdoor.

Project Yellow Light was established in 2007 by the family of Hunter Garner to honor his memory after his death in a car crash at age 16. According to the latest data, 2,841 people were killed in crashes involving distracted drivers in 2018. Texting while driving is an especially problematic trend among younger drivers. In 2018, 8 percent of people killed in teen (15-19) driving crashes died when the teen drivers were distracted at the times of the crashes.*

“A huge thanks to our amazing partners, participants and especially our 2020 Hunter Garner Scholarship winners for spreading this critical message about the dangers of distracted driving,” said Project Yellow Light founder Julie Garner. “I’m so proud of our student winners who are using their voice and creativity to impact young drivers and help save lives.”

Since 2011, Project Yellow Light has partnered with the Ad Council to turn the winning submissions into PSAs that receive national exposure through 1,600 TV stations nationwide, iHeartMedia radio stations, and Clear Channel Outdoor’s nearly 2,000 digital displays.

Supporting partners include AT&T’s It Can Wait, Apparent Insurance and Elephant Insurance, Clear Channel Outdoor (CCO), iHeartMedia, WKRN-TV Nashville, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the National Organizations for Youth Safety (NOYS). Scholarships for this year’s winning students are supported through AT&T’s Aspire Initiative, a $600 million commitment since 2008 to education and skills building, Apparent Insurance, Clear Channel Outdoor and Elephant Insurance.

“Distracted driving remains an important road safety issue,” said Lisa Sherman, president and CEO of the Ad Council. “It’s critical to spread this message, and nobody is better suited to communicate the importance of driving safely to young people than their own peers.”

The contest received 2,163 submissions this year. Entries were received from students representing all fifty states and Washington, D.C. The 2020 scholarship prizes were awarded to the following winners:

  • First Domino (video, high school): Joanne Sakamoto (Roanoke, VA)
  • Phone Down (video, college): Kambria Cook (N. Chesterfield, VA)
  • Eyes on the Road (billboard design, high school): Jami Pandiscio (Franklin, MA)
  • It’s Simple (billboard design, college): Sierra Fentress (Sykesville, MD)
  • You Can Wait (radio, high school): Miriam Zuo (Sugar Land, TX)
  • Telegraphing Catastrophe (radio, college): Matthew Merrill (Frisco, TX)

A host of advertising industry executives and artists lent their time to judging the entries. This year’s panel included recording artist and songwriter Aloe Blacc; renowned filmmaker and social activist Kweku Mandela; Dentsu Aegis Network Global CEO Wendy Clark; Wordsworth + Booth President Tony Mennuto; Co-Chairman and Partner of Goodby Silverstein & Partners, Jeff Goodby; and representatives from the Martin Agency, Pereira O’Dell and Project Yellow Light partners the Ad Council, Apparent Insurance, AT&T’s It Can Wait, CCO, Elephant Insurance and iHeartMedia.

Elephant CEO Alberto Schiavon said:

“It’s extremely meaningful for us to partner with an organization like Project Yellow Light. Julie Garner and her team are doing incredible work to bring attention to the dangers of distracted driving. We’re grateful to be part of Project Yellow Light’s effort to allow high school and college students the opportunity to create anti-distracted driving messaging that resonates with their peers. Congratulations to this year’s winners for delivering impactful messaging!”

Apparent Insurance Managing Director, Colleen Benzin stated:

“We saw another year of excellent submissions from high school and college students around the country using creative messaging to reach their peers about the dangers of distracted driving. We applaud this year’s winners for their talents and dedication to driving awareness of this important topic. We are proud to be a part of this impactful competition.”

AT&T AVP of Corporate Brand Marketing, Ryan Luckey stated:

“The main goal of the It Can Wait program is to end distracted driving by educating all drivers about the dangers of smartphone use behind the wheel. We applaud this new generation’s efforts to use their talents to further raise awareness around this important issue.”

WKRN-TV Nashville Emmy-winning journalist, Alex Denis stated:

“Unlike so many issues in our world today, distracted driving is one we can easily solve. Simply, put the phone down. No one should suffer the loss of a loved one due to a senseless act so preventable. Let’s all work together to save lives.”

Vice President of Communications of iHeartMedia, Jessica King stated:

“Distracted driving continues to be a public safety concern that claims the life of innocent drivers every year. The Project Yellow Light program is an opportunity for iHeart to connect with the communities in which we live and work to spotlight this critical issue.”

Director of NOYS, Tameka Brown stated:

“Distracted driving is such a critical issue for young drivers. The media assets created by youth for Project Yellow Light resonates so strongly with their peers and makes this program so powerful."

“Working with PYL was an amazing experience,” said high school video winner Joanne Sakamoto. “Sharing my domino idea through animation was such a fun way to emphasize the importance of safe and mindful driving, and I’m so grateful to have had this opportunity!”

College video winner Kambria Cook said: “I am so happy PYL gave me the opportunity to do the two things I love to do, create and motivate!”

"As a high schooler, I see distracted driving all of the time. It's frustrating. Thankfully, Project Yellow Light gave me a vehicle to make positive change," said high school billboard winner Jami Pandiscio.

"My creative was inspired by the realization that sometimes the simplest things in life can make the greatest difference," said college billboard winner Sierra Fentress.

From text messages to social media updates to news alerts, our phones enable us to connect with others at all times, even, unfortunately, when we’re behind the wheel,” said high school radio winner Miriam Zuo. “I wanted to highlight, through historical context, the good that has come from waiting and challenge the dangerous temptation of instant gratification.”

“Project Yellow Light is an incredible organization that continues to make this crazy world a safer place,” said college radio winner Matthew Merrill. “Being able to contribute to their legacy with my radio submission has been an absolute honor!”

Through the Stop the Texts. Stop the Wrecks. campaign, the Ad Council and NHTSA have been working together to prevent distracted driving since 2012.

*Data Source:


The Ad Council
The Ad Council is a nonprofit organization with a rich history of marshaling volunteer talent from the advertising and media industries to deliver crucial messages to the American public. Having produced literally thousands of PSA campaigns addressing the most pressing social issues of the day, the Ad Council has affected, and continues to affect, tremendous positive change by raising awareness, inspiring action and saving lives. To learn more about the Ad Council and its campaigns, visit, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter or view our PSAs on YouTube.

We help family, friends and neighbors connect in meaningful ways every day. From the first phone call 140+ years ago to mobile video streaming, we innovate to improve lives. We have the nation’s fastest wireless network.** And according to America’s biggest test, we have the nation’s best wireless network.*** We’re building FirstNet® just for first responders and creating next-generation mobile 5G. With a range of TV and video products, we deliver entertainment people love to talk about. Our smart, highly secure solutions serve nearly 3 million global businesses – nearly all of the Fortune 1000. And worldwide, our spirit of service drives employees to give back to their communities.

AT&T Communications is part of AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T). Learn more at

AT&T products and services are provided or offered by subsidiaries and affiliates of AT&T Inc. under the AT&T brand and not by AT&T Inc. Additional information about AT&T products and services is available at Follow our news on Twitter at @ATT, on Facebook at and on YouTube at © 2020 AT&T Intellectual Property. All rights reserved. AT&T, the Globe logo and other marks are trademarks and service marks of AT&T Intellectual Property and/or AT&T affiliated companies. FirstNet and the FirstNet logo are registered trademarks and service marks of the First Responder Network Authority. All other marks contained herein are the property of their respective owners.

**Based on analysis by Ookla® of Speedtest Intelligence® data median download speeds for Q2 2020. Ookla trademarks used under license and reprinted with permission. ***GWS OneScore, September 2019.

Apparent Insurance
Apparent Insurance is a company designed for parents by parents to meet the unique needs of families. Apparent offers insurance plans that give parents savings and peace of mind at every stage of life. Apparent coverage protects families with children of all ages, and the features, benefits, discounts, and services evolve alongside the families they serve. Backed and secured by parent company, Admiral Group, which oversees over 6 million customers across 7 countries, Apparent Insurance is currently available to consumers in the state of Texas.

Learn more about Apparent Insurance and receive a quote at and connect on Facebook and Instagram at @ApparentInsurance and on Twitter at @ApparentAuto.

WKRN-TV Nashville
WKRN-TV Nashville and are part of Nexstar Media Group. Nexstar Media Group is America’s largest local television and media company with 196 full power stations in 114 markets and a growing digital media operation. WKRN-TV Nashville serves the Mid-state of Tennessee and Southern Kentucky.

Clear Channel Outdoor Holdings
Clear Holdings Channel Outdoor, Inc. (NYSE: CCO) is one of the world's largest outdoor advertising companies with a diverse portfolio of approximately 570,000 print and digital displays in 32 countries across Asia, Europe, Latin America and North America, reaching millions of people monthly. A growing digital platform includes more than 16,000 digital displays in international markets and more than 1,900 digital displays (excluding airports), including more than 1,400 digital billboards, in the U.S.

Elephant Insurance
Elephant is a consumer-focused car insurance company headquartered in Richmond, VA with the aim to put its customers at the center of all efforts. Elephant Insurance is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Admiral Group, plc., one of the U.K.’s leading insurers with a presence in eight countries and over 6 million customers worldwide. More information is available at

iHeartMedia (NASDAQ: IHRT) is the number one audio company in the United States, reaching nine out of 10 Americans every month – and with its quarter of a billion monthly listeners, has a greater reach than any other media company in the U.S. The company’s leadership position in audio extends across multiple platforms, including more than 850 live broadcast stations in over 160 markets nationwide; through its iHeartRadio digital service available across more than 250 platforms and 2,000 devices; through its influencers; social; branded iconic live music events; other digital products and newsletters; and podcasts as the #1 commercial podcast publisher. iHeartMedia also leads the audio industry in analytics, targeting and attribution for its marketing partners with its SmartAudio product, using data from its massive consumer base. Visit for more company information.

National Organizations for Youth Safety
NOYS was originally founded in 1995 as the Traffic Safety Collaboration supported by funding from government agencies, including the Department of Transportation. In 2005, NOYS became a 501(c)(3) organization and incorporated as National Organizations for Youth Safety. With over 100 organizational members - youth-serving nonprofits, businesses and government agencies, NOYS works collectively to address the most prevalent causes of injury and death among teens and young adults in the US. Learn more at

For 50 years, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has served as the key federal agency charged with improving safety on our nation’s roadways. As part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, NHTSA is working to reduce traffic-related deaths and injuries by promoting the use of seat belts and child safety seats; helping states and local communities address the threat of distracted, drunk and drug-impaired drivers; regulating vehicle safety standards and investigating safety defects in motor vehicles; establishing and enforcing fuel economy standards; conducting research on driver behavior and traffic safety; and providing consumer information on issues ranging from child passenger safety to impaired driving. For more information visit

Project Yellow Light
Project Yellow Light is a film, billboard and radio scholarship competition where high school and college students create compelling stories persuading their peers to develop safe driving habits. This project gives students a voice and a role in preventing car crashes — one of the leading causes of death of teenagers and young adults in the U.S. Project Yellow Light was created by Julie, Lowell and Alex Garner in memory of their son/brother, Hunter, who died tragically in a car crash in 2007. Each year the winners receive the Hunter Garner Scholarship.

Media Contacts:

The Ad Council
Sean Williams

Apparent Insurance
Morgan Mikulaschek

AT&T It Can Wait
Jessica Filante

Clear Channel Outdoor Americas
Jason D. King

Elephant Insurance
Megan Irvin

Project Yellow Light
Julie Garner