NewsProject: Drive Safer


MPS Drive nearly doubles seats available for winter session, provides equity in driver's education

"It opens up the avenue for the student to be helpful in the community," said Jodie Donabar, MKE Recreation Supervisor
Posted at 4:54 PM, Nov 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-21 19:24:43-05

MILWAUKEE — One of the main focuses of TMJ4's Project: Drive Safer is education. A program for Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) students is expanding access to students who may not otherwise be able to afford driver's ed classes. It's all thanks to additional funding they've recently received.

Jodie Donabar, a supervisor with MKE Recreation, which coordinates MPS Drive, says a typical driver's ed class costs about $500 on average. MPS Drive offers the classes for the cost of a learner's permit. That comes out to $35.

"Having (students) get their license the correct way for $35 is way more appealing to the students now. Now the students are like 'Oh yes I can do $35, whereas $500? I can't do $500,'" said Donabar.

Donabar said MPS Drive was started to address racial and income disparities in driver's education. It allows MPS high school students to work towards getting their license before they turn the age of 18. At the cost of $35, it provides equity in the avenue of becoming a teenage driver.

"The first year, I remember a mother coming up to us when we had our orientation and she said 'of five kids, this is the first one to get their driver's license' because they couldn't afford it," said Donabar.

"If you have these kids that are able to get their license and then drive themselves to work, that can make a big difference in some of these families," asked TMJ4's Ryan Jenkins.

"Absolutely. Or even help the parent take the other siblings to school, to daycare, to help go grocery shopping for the parent. I mean it opens up the avenue for the student to be helpful in the community," said Donabar.

Recently $45,000 worth of donations from groups like AAA and The Educators Credit Union, along with COVID relief money, has helped open up this program to more families by allowing MKE Rec to double the number of seats offered per session to nearly 1,200.

"How much of an impact can education have on combating reckless driving?" asked TMJ4's Ryan Jenkins

"I think it's a small piece of the puzzle. It's not going to solve it. But, the more that we can get the rules of the road out there - the better it's going to be for the other areas. The enforcement and the infrastructure," said Donabar.

The hope, she said, is that the lessons these teens learn in driver's ed can then trickle down into the rest of the community.

"We teach the kids that don't know how to drive with the hope that when they're learning to drive and driving with their parent or a family member, they start instilling what the rules are," said Donabar.

Registration for MPS Drive's Winter Session opens on Dec. 6 at 10 a.m.

Registration is first come, first serve. The program is for MPS Students between the ages of 15 and 17 and a half.

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