Sixth Grader Pushes for Changes in Life Jacket Laws
MOAB – Given time to think, many of us could think of multiple things we would like to see change; whether it is a law, a rule, or a personal change. However, few ever act on that initial desire and things in motion. Brett Reed, a sixth grade student from Moab, is not one to wait around for change, and instead chooses to act.
Brett attends Helen M. Knight Elementary in Moab, and weeks ago he wrote a letter to his city council as part of an assignment. In the letter, Brett raises some concerns he has about the life jacket rules in Utah, specifically those on the Colorado River.
“The part of the law where it says if you’re 13 or older you aren’t required to wear a life jacket is, well, ridiculous,” he wrote. “…It should be a higher age and maybe even just change the law so life jackets are required!”
This was not just your typical concerned letter either, Brett took the time and put in the leg work required to back up his proposals; citing research he had conducted about boating deaths in the country and the numbers of those who were not believed to be wearing life jackets.
Not knowing what would come of it, Brett sent off his letter – which then made its way from the Grand County Sheriff’s Office, to the city council, and up on through the ladder until it eventually found itself on the desk of Ty Hunter, the Boating Program Coordinator at the Utah Division of State Parks and Recreation.
Because of the passion and thought put into the letter, Hunter said he felt Brett deserved some recognition for his efforts to make a change. After some thought, he decided to make the trip from Salt Lake City down to Moab to surprise the young man at his school.
The meeting came to a head on Tuesday, March 29, and while the class was out at recess, Hunter – along with other state parks staff and board members – entered the classroom and awaited the children’s return. Once they entered and took their seats, Hunter addressed the class, and let them know the purpose of his visit.
“Change can start off as something small and simple and then can be either large or complex,” Hunter said. “The main thing it comes down to is – do you have the drive to do it and are you willing to stick with it?”
Hunter then called Brett to the front of the classroom and presented him with a life jacket emblazoned with a “Wear it Utah!” patch. The two exchanged smiles and a handshake, where Hunter then asked that Brett keep his passion going and remember to remind those around him to wear their life jackets.
A member of the Utah State Parks Board, Kim Schappert, also joined in on the conversation in the classroom, where she announced that because of Brett’s letter, she now has more information and topics to bring up at her upcoming board meetings.
“I’ll explain it to my board and then we can decide if we want to make a change or not,” Schappert said. “It’s because we get input (from) the public about how you feel about or parks and our laws that we can make changes to make them even better.”
At the end of the day, Hunter said, taking that step towards the changes you want to see is what really helps make a difference, and keeping that passion burning along the way can help make that dream a reality.”
“Not only do you have to have that drive,” Hunter said, “you kind of have to have that passion to sit there and keep pushing you as you go along.”
As for Brett, he said he wants to continue reminding those around him of the safety life jackets can provide, and encourages others to lead by example and speak up.