Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) this month recognized CARPOOL, a Texas A&M University non-profit, student-run organization, for its efforts in providing “safe rides to help save lives on Texas roadways.” Alyssa Hoover ‘14, current chair of CARPOOL, says her involvement with the organization “taught me that not only could I make a significant difference, but that I absolutely must.”
It was that kind of motivation in an Aggie student that gave rise to CARPOOL (Caring Aggies R Protecting Over Our Lives) in 1998, after Texas A&M student Jeff Schiefelbein received a DWI in College Station and began an 18-month probation sentence. As part of his restitution, Schiefelbein was required to appear at a MADD Victim Impact panel where he heard from a woman whose daughter died as a result of a drunk driving incident. After that experience, he was inspired to create a safe-ride program for the Bryan-College Station community and to date, CARPOOL volunteers have given more than 210,000 safe rides home.
Hoover, a senior psychology major from Plano, Texas, has been involved in CARPOOL since her freshman year at Texas A&M. “I learned about it at Fish Camp and immediately wanted to join,” she recalls. “To me it seemed to be the perfect combination of service and fun. Although the devastating effects of drinking and driving have never personally impacted me, I’ve always been very sensitive to the stories of those that have been affected.”
CARPOOL volunteers are Texas A&M students who provide community residents − students or not − with free rides home every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. during the spring and fall semesters. The rides are “non-judgmental” and given not only to intoxicated persons, but also to people who lack transportation due to any other circumstances.
As chair of this 300-member group, Hoover, along with her vice-chairs, manages internal issues such as finance and risk management, as well as external areas including fundraising and public relations. But Hoover credits the organization’s members for making her job simple. “They are all very driven, caring, self-sufficient, brilliantly hilarious and friendly,” she states. “They inspire and renew me through every interaction and I honestly feel like they have a greater impact on me than I do on them!”
Hoover says her leadership role with CARPOOL has changed her for the better. “Before CARPOOL, I was extremely shy, self-conscious and reserved. I never really had a desire to share my opinions and I never really thought I could make any sort of measureable difference. CARPOOL changed that and ingrained in me a myriad of life and leadership skills.”
She says for her, leadership means connecting with people. “The greatest leaders are ones who can connect with those they lead,” she notes. “I try very hard to be involved in the professional and personal lives of the members because it’s imperative to me that they get the best out of their CARPOOL experience and that they can utilize the skills they develop here in future enterprises.”
The organization is striving to be the leading designated driver program in the nation, Hoover says, but as a non-profit organization, it is entirely reliant upon donations. “Any donation is greatly appreciated and serves to make our operations even larger, even more efficient and even more fun,” she says.
Donors can contribute to the CARPOOL mission in a variety of ways. “You can donate directly to our operations with cash or check, contribute through our annual Gala event, become a CARPOOL sponsor or donate to our endowment fund through the Texas A&M Foundation,” Hoover explains. More details on donating to CARPOOL can be found at carpool.tamu.edu/donate.
Aggie students wishing to become CARPOOL volunteers must apply for membership by filling out an online application and attending an interview.
And community members can utilize the CARPOOL free ride service by calling 979-693-9905.
Hoover says she plans to continue her involvement with CARPOOL throughout the rest of her college career. After graduation, she hopes to enter a physician’s assistant program and eventually specialize in psychiatry.
She says her work with CARPOOL and her experiences at Texas A&M as a whole have made her more aware of the importance of helping others. “I began to really think about all the ways that my actions and behaviors impact other people,” she notes. “I’m so honored to have been shaped and molded by such an amazing organization and such an amazing school. We’re part of the Aggie family and, more broadly, the human family. Each and every loss is our own and each and every life is ours to protect.”
Media contact: Lesley Henton, Division of Marketing & Communications at Texas A&M University;