Gallup, NM —  Thanks to a joint effort between First Lady Vikki Shirley and The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, a national not-for-profit organization funded by America’s leading distillers and dedicated to fighting drunk driving and underage drinking, students got a life-saving lesson about the dangers of underage drinking and driving today during a presentation at Gallup High School. In advance of Prom and Graduation Season, First Lady Shirley appeared with Brandon Silveria, a young man who was involved in an alcohol-related crash at age 17 just before his high school prom, and Tony Silveria, Brandon’s father. Mayor Bob Rosebrough, City Councilor Bill Macharo and Citizen Advocate Ben Welch from Gallup also attended the presentation. Mayor Rosebrough will issue a proclamation honoring Brandon and Tony. Father and son made a second presentation to students at Window Rock High School in Ft. Defiance, AZ this morning.

"I am so pleased that Brandon and Tony Silveria could visit us this year as we approach prom and graduation season," said First Lady Shirley. "Fifty-three youths under the age of 21 died in alcohol-related traffic fatalities in New Mexico in 2002, an increase of seven percent since 2001. And, 92 youths under 21 died in New Mexico in 2002, showing an increase of over 88 percent. These numbers are far too high. By sharing his story with students at Liberty High School and Window Rock High School, I am hopeful that we can reinforce what children are hearing from their parents, and take a step towards reducing drunk driving."

During the program, Silveria told students his wrenching story of how as a high school student he had everything a teenager could want—a job, girlfriend and plans for the future—until he had a few drinks at a party and chose to drive home. After falling asleep at the wheel, crossing the centerline and crashing into a tree, Brandon was left in a coma for three months and spent several years in rehabilitation. Silveria was so badly injured that basic motor functions such as walking, talking and swallowing had to be re-learned. He has permanent brain injury and suffers from dangerous seizures. Brandon’s presentations continue to receive standing ovations from students across the country.

"What you become depends on the choices that you make," said Brandon Silveria. "When I was seventeen, I had a job and a girlfriend. Because of my crash, I lost both of them. My hope is that by sharing my experiences with other young people, I can prevent others from being hurt or killed."

Through educational efforts such as the Silveria lecture and video program, The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility educates students across the country about the hazards of underage drinking and driving. Since Brandon and his father Tony have become spokespeople for The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, they have addressed over one million high school students nationwide and have been featured on such television programs as "Rescue 911," NBC’s "Today," and "Leeza."

"We are pleased to have the have First Lady Shirley participate in today’s event in support The Foundation’s efforts to combat underage drinking," said Pam Beer, Field Director, The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility. "During our visit, we hope to raise awareness about this serious problem, and by doing so, save lives in New Mexico and Arizona."

To request a free copy of "Brandon Tells His Story" or for more information on the Silveria program call (800) 431-4499. The 30-minute video, which won an award from the American Medical Association, is accompanied by supporting curriculum materials and can be used with large or small groups of teens.

Launched in 1991, The Century Council is funded by America's leading distillers. The Foundation's mission is to promote responsible decision-making regarding beverage alcohol and discourage all forms of irresponsible consumption through education, communications, research, law enforcement and other programs. For more information on the Foundation, log onto www.responsibility.org.
CONTACT: Leslie Kimball
The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility
via email