Former North Allegheny student draws from experience to create contest-winning video

| Wednesday, July 2, 2014, 9:01 p.m.

Zack Nimmo will not soon forget the day he came upon an overturned car that had just crashed into the porch of a house on Rochester Road in McCandless.

“It was a few years ago,” said Nimmo, 18, of McCandless, who graduated from North Allegheny Senior High School earlier this month. “We believe the driver had been drinking. From that experience, I learned that no matter what you do, there are others on the road who you have to be aware of and cautious of.”

He drew upon this experience to create a two-minute, 43-second public-service announcement that took the grand prize in the 2014 Edgar Snyder & Associates “Words to be Heard” Scholarship Contest in which high school seniors in Western Pennsylvania are challenged to create videos, PowerPoint presentations, websites or essays to discourage their peers from underage drinking, drunken driving or texting while driving.

Nimmo's video featured a montage of Google searches and music to convey the story of a teenager looking up “fun party games,” then “fun drinking games,” “how to make a fake ID” and “beer stores in Pittsburgh”; uploading photos of teens drinking and partying; getting driving directions to downtown Pittsburgh; and then frantically searching for “how to stop bleeding” and “NEAREST HOSPITAL,” then “funeral homes in Pittsburgh.”

A total of 222 entries were submitted. Nimmo's prize was $5,000 in scholarship money.

“I thought my video was pretty cool and hoped something would come of it, but I was shocked that mine won the grand prize,” Nimmo said.

He said the it took him two weeks to complete the project.

“The video was about drunk driving, but it's just as dangerous to eat while driving or mess with the radio. There are so many things that are distracting and dangerous,” said Nimmo, who plans to attend the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va., in the fall.

He plans to major in chemistry on a pre-med track.

Debra Iwaniec, 59, of Ligonier, was one of the contest judges. Her son, Kenton Iwaniec, 24, a state police trooper, was killed by a drunken driver six years ago while heading home from the Avondale Barracks in Chester County.

“I was honored to be a part of this contest,” said Iwaniec, who is president of the Trooper Iwaniec Memorial Foundation.

“Zack did an excellent job. He told a story, he told it quickly, and he used an insightful approach,” she said.

Edgar Snyder, chairman of the law firm that bears his name, agreed.

“Zack put everything right up there and drew you in,” he said. “It was so clever. I thought it was great.” Snyder said his firm has sponsored the contest for 20 years as a way to convey the dangers of drunken driving and distracted driving.

“Statistics show that 25 percent of teen deaths are the result of drinking and driving. We see the carnage when people don't pay attention to the road,” said Snyder, 72, of Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill neighborhood,

He said his firm represents hundreds of victims of distracted and drunk driving each year.

Laurie Rees is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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