MEMPHIS, United States - If you've ever wondered what it's like to get the star treatment, a group of Tennessee teens can tell you all about it. The five talented teenagers from Germantown High School near Memphis won the 2011 Ford Driving Skills for Life (DSFL) “Belt It Out” song contest. The limo, the hall full of people, hobnobbing with celebrities, talking about their music video, it was all part of an exciting day in the spotlight.
"This trip was the trip of a lifetime," said Eli Berry, 18, one of the winners. "I can't believe that I had an opportunity such as this."
Ford treated Berry and other members of the group to a limo ride from their hometown to Atlanta, Georgia to attend Usher's New Look Foundation World Leadership Conference. Four of the teens, one was unavailable for the trip, joined Usher and country music star John Rich on a workshop panel to discuss how music can inspire social change. The teens earned the star treatment with a song about the dangers of distracted driving, which came out on top after 520,000 votes from the public and final judging of the Ford DSFL "Belt It Out" Song Contest by Shawn Wilson, president of New Look Foundation.
"This is a video you would get, think it's great, get the message and then forward it on to someone else," said Wilson. "Great approach."
"It got the point across to me. I'm going to slow down," said John Rich. "Being creative goes so much further than just music; creativity makes the world go round. I love seeing a creative way to get a message across. I think that's awesome."
Ford also awarded each member of the winning team a $5,000 U.S. savings bond. The second place winner took home a $3,000 savings bond and the third place duo each scored a $1,000 bond.
"I felt really lucky to have been given this opportunity," said Sophia Frantz, 17, another member of the winning group. "I was not expecting such a strong and inspirational message of leadership from the speakers and from the youth who showcased their talent."
"I was honored and privileged to be part of such an amazing and heartfelt conference," said winner Jared Dover, 17. "God bless Usher for what he is doing for the community."
Ford Motor Company Fund has invested another $1 million to expand the fight against the No. 1 killer of American teens – vehicle crashes. Working with the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), Ford is bringing its free driving skills clinic this year to high schools in 15 states.
"I would like to thank Ford and Ushers New Look Foundation for granting me definitely what I would call the coolest nights of the summer," said Nathan Waters, 18.
"Thank you Ford," said Berry.
You can view the winning video and learn more about Ford DSFL at www.drivingskillsforlife.com.