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Meet Nathaniel Hayes, a 2024 PFL Scholarship Winner

I am Nathan Hayes, a graduating senior at Effingham County High School in Springfield, Georgia.  I play three varsity sports, basketball, baseball, and football.  I was the starting quarterback and led the team to a region championship for the first time in 28 years, and I am a National Heisman High School Finalist.

I am a member of twelve extracurricular programs, and I have served as Class President for the past four years. I’m the Co-President for the National Honor Society and Vice President for Beta Club. I was accepted at 20 universities, including Georgia Tech and Harvard.

I have decided to attend Georgia Tech this fall on a full-ride Stamps Presidential Scholarship.  I will be majoring in biomedical engineering on a pre-med track. Since I was eight years old, my dream career has been to become an orthopedic surgeon!

There are three main principles to which every driver must adhere when operating behind the wheel: patience, respect, and discipline. These three lessons from the Safeguarding Your Legacy Curriculum meant the most to me. 

When I was first learning to drive, my father always told me to drive “defensively.” He taught me to be patient within my surroundings, to be aware of my surroundings, and not to act too hastily when making a decision on the road. For example, in the first few months of obtaining my learner’s permit, I struggled to judge when to pull out of a driveway and when to stay put. My mother and father would have to tell me when to pull out and when to wait on cars to pass. This taught me patience. Drivers – specifically young, inexperienced drivers – must not feel rushed or coerced into doing anything even remotely unsafe. Drivers must exhibit patience at all times while behind the wheel. This holds true especially at a four way stop, which is a location on the road at which many accidents occur. There is a four-way stop about five minutes from my house where numerous accidents happened when I was a small child. Seeing incident after incident on the news taught me to always illustrate patience and composure when driving, not only for my safety, but for the safety of my passengers and fellow drivers. 

In addition to patience and composure, drivers must exercise respect for the road as well as respect for other drivers. When driving, we must drive as if we are driving together. Without knowing it, drivers are working together on the road to maintain their safety through communicating with one another. When turning either left or right, there is a crucial step all drivers must perform: the turn signal. This is a form of communication. When a driver turns left, other drivers must respect the signal, slow down, and allow the driver to turn. When a bicyclist is on the side of the road, drivers should be naturally inclined to respect the bicyclist, and they should slow down and slightly angle themselves around the cyclist, being ever so careful to avoid hitting him. Every driver should respect bicyclists, pedestrians, other drivers, and the rules of the road. Every sign and every light on the road must be accounted for because they are in place to protect drivers. Drivers know to stop at red lights. Drivers know to gradually accelerate at a green light after all pedestrians have cleared the walkway. Drivers know to gradually decelerate when approaching a yellow light, and they know to adhere to yellow caution signs. Respect for the road and other drivers is of the utmost importance when sitting behind a wheel. So is discipline. 

My father was a driver’s education teacher for 27 years. He always took his students on the same route through Effingham County. He would take the more experienced students through the city and the less experienced students through the rural areas of the county. The roads sometimes seemed boring and monotonous as a practicing driver. However, becoming accustomed to the same routes, the same stops, the same streets and the same backroads, the students learned discipline. They were able to maintain focus. They gradually learned when to speed up and when to slow down. They learned how to decelerate in order to round curbs. They learned how to gradually come to a stop at a stop sign, and they learned when to turn on their signal when making a left. The students learned discipline. As a result, they became better drivers. I still hear students come up to my father in our community and recite the same line: “Coach Hayes! Do you remember me? You taught me in driver’s ed!” My father made an impression on his students and instilled discipline within them. In his class, they learned respect for the road and respect for other drivers. They developed composure and patience.

I extremely grateful and excited to be apart of the 2024 Prepared for Life (PFL) Scholarship Class and look forward to being an ambassador for the 43 Key Seconds safe driving initiative!