FINALIST ESSAY: Never Drink and Drive Scholarship Essay by Candace Johnston (Spring 2020)

Candace Johnston is One of Nine Finalists for the Johnson Attorneys Group Scholarship

From a very young age, I was aware of alcohol, its effects, and why it is dangerous.

When I was eight years old, my mother left me with my father so she could go to school. My father began to drink in the middle of the day and through the night. As dinner approached,
Mom hadn’t gotten home yet, so I asked for some food. My father proceeded to put me in the car and drive us to get a meal, intoxicated. My mother had spoken to me about what to do in
this situation, so I buckled tightly and braced myself for the worst.

That evening, we got into a car accident. Fortunately, my father didn’t crash into anyone, so nobody got hurt. When the police showed up, they helped me crawl out of the car and I cried for Mom. From that moment going forward, I knew I didn’t like the thought of drunk driving and I didn’t want any children to feel the way I did, so I asked my mom what we could do to help. She took me to MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, where I became the child ambassador for the state.

Candace Johnston

Candace Johnston — finalist, Johnson Attorneys Group Never Drink and Drive scholarship competition.

This venture led me to Protecting You Protecting Me Children Against Drunk Driving, an organization that educated the youth about alcohol, drunk driving, and what to do in scary situations. I traveled to elementary schools across the state and spoke to students and shared my experience. I still am active in both organizations today. At the age of 11, I spoke to a police officer who told me that when they held DWI checkpoints, it was a volunteer position and since they were out on the roads trying to catch drunk drivers, there wasn’t much time to grab lunch/dinner or a cup of coffee. It didn’t sit right with me so I asked my mom if we could start bringing them dinner.

My mom said she didn’t have the money to help a lot but did have enough to buy a case of lollipops that I could sell. I began to sell lollipops and save up money. One night, we saw a checkpoint. We quickly went home and checked to see how much money I had saved. It was only $27. We knew it wasn’t enough to buy much but my mom suggested that we go to a pizza spot. When I went inside, I told them I wanted to buy pizzas and sodas for the officers doing the checkpoint, but I only had $27, which wasn’t enough to feed everyone. They said they would match my purchase. That night we fed the officers and my passion to give back exploded. Today, my non-profit Lollipops for Law Enforcement is going strong. Sponsored by George Lopez and many members of my community, our officers are taken care of every checkpoint and drunk drivers are being pulled off the streets. My journey doesn’t end here. I will continue to strive to educate people about driving drunk and start organizations that will do so as well.

Candace Johnston is currently attending Chapman University with plans to go to law school at UCLA or USC. She is from Los Lunas, New Mexico, but currently lives in Anaheim.

Pat Rillera, Regional Executive Director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Southern California, will be selecting our winner next week.

James Johnson

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