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AT&T partners with Girl Scouts on anti-texting campaign, announces funding for stay-in-school programs

Posted by Jeremy C. Fox  March 28, 2012 01:25 PM

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(Jeremy C. Fox for Boston.com)

Tessa Sanders, a 14-year-old Girl Scout from Reading, tries out a new tablet device at the AT&T store while Patricia Jacobs, president of AT&T New England, chats with Ianka Bhatia, 15, of Boxboro.

If you start noticing neighborhood Girl Scouts wearing patches that look an awful lot like little smartphones, don’t be surprised.

Soon, Girl Scouts around the region will be earning the patches by promising not to send text messages when they are old enough to drive. The effort, a partnership between the scouts and AT&T called “It Can Wait: Don’t Text and Drive,” is one of two youth-focused initiatives announced by local representatives for the telecommunications giant at an event Tuesday inside the new AT&T store in Downtown Crossing.

“It’s really a public education campaign to talk with kids and adults about the dangers of texting while driving,” said Patricia Jacobs, president of AT&T New England and herself a former Girl Scout and mother of a 13-year-old daughter. Launched in March 2010, the “It Can Wait” program has so far gathered pledges from 61,000 students around the country.

For the event, AT&T invited several teenage Girl Scouts from around the area who either have just gotten their learners’ permits or will soon have them. Jacobs spoke with the scouts about the value of community service and the importance of safety on the road.

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(Jeremy C. Fox for Boston.com)
Patricia Jacobs, president of AT&T New England .
“So many of the values that you guys live every day, and what I learned as a Girl Scout — the things I learned about courage and confidence and leadership and community service — those are values that I’ve taken with me through my career and through my life at AT&T,” Jacobs told the girls.

She encouraged them to not just sign the pledge themselves but to help spread the message to their classmates and their families.

“If you see somebody texting while driving, call them on it,” Jacobs said. “Say, ‘That’s not safe. You could hurt yourself and you could hurt someone else.’”

Asked by scout Ianka Bhatia, 15, why AT&T felt the campaign was necessary when texting while driving is already illegal in Massachusetts, Jacobs explained.

“The sad thing is that even though it’s illegal and even though people know it’s common sense not to text and drive … they do it anyway,” she said.

Jacobs also told the scouts about a new $250 million commitment to AT&T Aspire, an education program that funds local programs working to encourage high school students to stay in school and help prepare them for careers. Through this program, AT&T has already given $100 million since 2008 to help fund more than 1,000 community and national organizations, including school districts, institutions of higher education, and nonprofit organizations in education.

The partnership between AT&T and the Girl Scouts began recently, as part of the scouts’ 100th anniversary celebration. Dara Dalmata, development director for the Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts, said the partnership was natural, given AT&T’s strong interest in expanding the “It can Wait” campaign.

“We serve 41,000 girls from Eastern Massachusetts, and that, to them, is the perfect audience to promote this to,” Dalmata said. “Any year we could do that, but this year, with the 100th anniversary, there are so many good opportunities.”

Festivities for the centenary continue throughout the coming days and months, with a sold-out banquet — the Forever Green Gala Celebration at the Fairmount Copley Plaza — on Thursday and a Camporee at the Barnstable County Fairgrounds on June 1 – 3 where 1,500 children and adults are expected.

For more information about the Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts, visit http://www.girlscoutseasternmass.org/. For more on AT&T Aspire or to apply for funding, visit http://www.att.com/gen/press-room?pid=22593.

Email Jeremy C. Fox at jeremycfox@gmail.com.
Follow Jeremy C. Fox on Twitter: @jeremycfox.
Follow Downtown on Twitter: @YTDowntown.

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(Jeremy C. Fox for Boston.com)

Girl Scouts gathered with Patricia Jacobs, president of AT&T New England. From left: Kelsey Barchard, 14, from Reading; Tessa Sanders, 14, from Reading; Ianka Bhatia, 15, from Boxborough; Kasey Cook, 16, from Reading; Jacobs; and Caitlin Fitzmaurice, 16, from Scituate.

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