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DEARBORN, MI -- Ford Motor Company Fund today announced that Boost America!, its $30 million child passenger safety program, has awarded scholarships to six elementary school students across the country. The awards were given for the best billboard designs to promote booster seat use for kids traveling in automobiles.

The contest was part of a nationwide booster seat educational kit that the Ford Motor Company Fund, in partnership with the National Association of Governors' Highway Safety Representatives, sent to every elementary school across the country in March. The Boost America! educational program is projected to reach more than 13.8 million preschoolers and more than 21.6 million elementary school students during 2001, for a total projected reach of more than 35 million students and their families.

The innovative, interactive and fun educational curriculum features a video starring superstars Will Smith and his wife Jada Pinkett Smith. It also includes games, stickers and growth charts that are all designed to teach children about the importance of booster seats. More than 5,000 entries were received. The materials were designed by LearningWorks, LLC. and were reviewed for technical accuracy by safety experts from Boost America! partners including the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the American Academy of Pediatrics and others.

"The enormous number of students that entered the contest shows the increasing acceptance and popularity of booster seats among older children'' said Ford Motor Company Vice President Jason Vines. "We at Ford are pleased to help educate children in the classroom about this important safety device that is so often overlooked.''

All entries were judged by a panel of elementary school teachers.

The national grand prize winner of a $5,000 cash scholarship contribution is Natalie Smith, a first grader at the Dunbar Learning Center in Dallas, TX. Other winners are as follows:

Eastern Regional Winner - $1,000 cash scholarship contribution Ashley Federico, 1st Grade Perley Elementary School, Georgetown, MA
Eastern Regional Runner-Up - $500 cash scholarship contribution Brenna McNamee, 2nd Grade Our Lady of Calvary School, Philadelphia, PA
Midwest Regional Winner - $1,000 cash scholarship contribution Steven Leonhard, 2nd Grade Riverview School, Wausau, WI
Midwest Regional Runner-Up - $500 cash scholarship contribution Justin Juenemann, Kindergarten Phillipsburg Elementary School, Philipsburg, KS
Western Regional Winner - $1,000 cash scholarship contribution Samone Furlough, 1st Grade Dunbar Learning Center, Dallas, TX
Western Regional Runner-Up - $500 cash scholarship contribution Nicholas Garcia, Kindergarten Tuscany Hills Elementary School, Lake Elsinore, CA
Educational kits featuring Nickelodeon's "Blue's Clues'' were also sent to every daycare and pre-school in the country.

Booster seats provide the necessary safety transition for children who have outgrown traditional child safety seats but are not big enough to use adult lap and shoulder safety belts alone. A booster seat raises the child up so that adult lap/shoulder belts fit and protect better - snugly across the chest, and low over the hips.

Booster seats are recommended by highway safety experts for kids weighing 40 to 80 pounds (roughly ages 4 through 8). More than 500 children in this age group are killed each year in motor vehicle crashes and thousands more are seriously injured, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Boost America! is the largest and most comprehensive child passenger safety campaign in automotive history. In addition to the educational component, Ford is also distributing one million free booster seats nationwide through United Way and its funded agencies, participating Ford Motor Company dealerships (including Ford, Lincoln, Mercury, Volvo, Jaguar, Land Rover and Mazda), and various safety partners. The Ford Motor Company Fund, through a generous contribution to Boost America!, also funded all the educational materials that were sent to schools as well as the 500,000 free booster seats to needy families.

United Way agencies are providing 500,000 seats to income-eligible families across the country, and Ford Motor Company and its dealers are giving away 500,000 seats through vouchers redeemable at Toys "R'' Us to its customers.

Vouchers for free and discounted seats are also being distributed by many of Boost America!'s safety partners, such as the International Association of Chiefs of Police, AAA, the Emergency Nurses Association and the National Urban League, to name a few.

Boost America! is also supporting state-level booster seat laws to fill in gaps between existing child safety seat and adult safety belt laws. When Boost America! was announced in the Spring 2000, only one state (Washington) had passed a booster seat law. Today, six states have passed booster seat laws and many other states are currently considering passage.

More information about Boost America!, including photos of the award winning billboards and the educational materials are available online at www.boostamerica.org.

SOURCE: Boost America!
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