September 20, 2009

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Teen  AWARENESS Alcohol Program starts car breathalyzer pilot 

Teen volunteer demonstrates the ignition interlock

KINGSTON – The New York State Senate is onboard with interlocks.  So is MADD, which this past week, praised the Senate for adopting a bill requiring an ignition interlock device for convicted drunk drivers.

One advocacy group is ahead of the game.  So are 12 Ulster County Magistrates who are sending teens ticketed for ABC, UPM and other related offenses to the AWARENESS Alcohol Program. 

The program was created by teens, as a result of a fatal car crash on prom night in May 2007.  Thanks to a teen who was sent by a judge initially they now voluntarily  put an ignition interlock device in their vehicle. Who knows who could have ended up behind the wheel of that vehicle that is now safe from causing a fatality?

Bielecki and Hallinan with Deputy
Sheriff Chris Howe, left, and
Sheriff Paul Van Blarcum

Congressman Maurice Hinchey awarded Stephan Bielecki and Rose Hallinan Congressional Awards for Outstanding community service for their role in creating the program in August 2008. 

The two are now sophomores in college and the program is now run by siblings of both teens gaining more momentum every day.

"At first I thought the program was going to be more BS”, said the first teen assigned to the program, “but once I saw why they were doing it, it made me want to keep going".

Marie Shultis, the adult coordinator for AWARENESS, confirmed that many teens are voluntarily attending the weekly meetings with the clinical supervisor.

At first many get sent but then they like it and keep coming. Some call asking if they can attend to get help without being sentenced. It is the only time they can really sit and talk about their experiences as a group without being judged or getting negative consequences. They are soaking up all the educational feedback they receive with the clinical supervisor, he is so engaging he keeps them coming back for more..

A 19 year old from Stoneridge, who has been done with his community service for two months, continues to come.

“The program has improved my life", he said.

He quit smoking marijuana, but admits it initially was an ultimatum from mom, threatening to kick him out of the house.

“I didn't listen to my Mom”, he said.  AWARENESS is now helping

"I don't like any programs but if I have to come to any this would be the one”, said another, who keeps coming, even though he has finished the program.  “Because you helped me out so I want to help the others see what I learned through the program.”

Town of Marbletown Justice Claudia Davenport, left,
and Ulster Justice Susan Kesick voiced support
for the the program last January

There are currently three Kingston High School students doing community service through the program: A 19 year old from Kingston; and two from Saugerties that have finished their community service months ago but they continue to attend because they like it. 

“my daughter and her friend, who have taken a leadership role voluntarily helping to create the program, both acted in the DVD the group uses at the class like the weekly meetings”, Shultis said.  They are both 17, soon to be 18. 

A 19 year old from Woodstock  was recommended by a friend because he needed help he has been attending for 5 weeks.

I can see you are doing this to help us not hurt ourselves", said a newcomer who has attended only one class.

When approached by the Teens who coordinate the AWARENESS Alcohol program, National Interlock Service saw the need for a program to help reduce recidivism for 21 and under instances of DWI.

Looking at statistics, 21 and under have a 50% rate of recidivism for DWI within 4 years. These numbers are staggering and need to be addressed by society, that is why National Interlock got involved with this PILOT Program. If the culture of drinking and driving can be addressed at an early age, recidivism rates will drop accordingly making our roads safer and saving lives.

National Interlock has been very helpful in providing the PILOT's 1st Ignition Interlock System at no cost to our volunteer. It was installed by National Interlock Contractor Hal Moore of Moore Electronics, in Kingston, NY.

“We are looking for funding from the insurance and beverage industries to expand this program going forward”, said Shultis. “Our goal is to be able to place an Ignition Interlock in any teens vehicle that agrees to an ignition interlock voluntarily to prevent underage DWI from occurring.

I hope more teens will put this in their car before they get into trouble”, said teen with the interlock.

Many lives may be saved.

For more information on ignition interlocks you can go to

For more information on AWARENESS, or if you would like to donate, please go to or call 845-417-1483


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