|Volume XXIX Issue 6||September 25, 2003|
Skinner sparks awareness of drunk driving in
Mary-Haden Britton - Features Editor
Practically every Greek letter on Elonís campus was found at 8 p.m. Sept. 17 in Koury Center, with students coming in droves to represent their fraternities, sororities and other campus groups for this semesterís motivational speaker sponsored by Greeks Advocating Mature Management of Alcohol.
Chris Skinner began his speech with "call outs" to each organization present in the crowed auditorium, making each group feel welcome and known.
Skinner, who was born and raised in Nagshead, N.C. and graduated from Radford University, travels to college campuses spreading the word about a problem facing students and so many others today: Drunk driving.
With an overhead projector, Skinner told his life story, creating awareness of drunk driving through the use of his own experience, revealing that he had been paralyzed in a drunk driving accident.
In the fall of 1997, Skinner said his career at Radford University was filled with a string of bad decisions brought on by drinking.
He said that these decisions started after he joined an off-campus fraternity and did not learn to balance his time well. His grades began to drop and by the second semester of his freshmen year he had a 0.8 GPA.
Kicked out of school, Skinner had to face reality.
"My parents cut me off, which forced me to join the Army National Guard to pay for my tuition," he said.
By June 10, 2000, things were looking up for Skinner. He had boosted his GPA to a 3.0 at a community college and had been readmitted to Radford
Skinner said he had finally realized what being a college student meant while being able to have fun at the same time.
However, that night his new good fortune would take a turn for the worse. He said he had decided to attend the wedding of one of his fraternity brothers and ended up drinking heavily.
That night Skinner said he made two bad decisions: Riding in a car with someone who had been drinking and not wearing his seat belt.
He and his intoxicated driver were involved in a severe car crash as they were leaving the wedding. As a result of the crash, his neck was broken at vertebrae C5-C6, severing his spinal cord.
"Iwas paralyzed for life. I never thought something like this could happen to me," he said.
Skinner must now live his life in a wheelchair, though he said he has hope he will one day walk again. He said his hope comes in the form of the saying, "Whether you think you can or you think you canít, youíre right."
Though he has been through a lot, Skinner still remains positive by teaching others through his mistakes.
"Every choice you make has a lasting impact on your life," he said.
Skinner said he believes in living for today, tomorrow and the rest of your life, and the only way to do that is by making wise decisions, realizing the consequences of your decisions and learning how to persevere.
"Donít just look at statistics, learn from others experiences, learn from me," he said.
Zachary Pund, president of G.A.M.M.A said that they heard of Skinner from Brian Webb, assistant director of residence life who is friends with him.
Pund said he found his speech to be very real and allowed the students to connect with him on a more personal level. "It made me think about how I am not as invincible as I think I am.
"I feel that most students were impacted from his speech and really took something away from it," Pund said. "Since he is younger and closer to our age, I think the students were able to feel that connection with him."
At the end of the program Skinner invited students to touch his wheelchair, so they could realize their consequences before they make decisions.
For more information visit Skinnerís Web site at www.chrisskinner.org.
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