By: Sharon Aron Baron
On Monday, the families of Marisa Catronio and Kaitlyn Ferrante appeared at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where the nonprofit organization of Marisa’s Way awarded scholarships to students as well as discussed driver’s safety on the day marking the one year anniversary of their tragic deaths.
Last November 17, at 1:45 a.m. Marisa Catronio and Kaitlyn Ferrante, both 21, were driving on the Sawgrass Expressway towards Coral Ridge Drive when Kayla Mendoza, 20, illegally entered the exit ramp causing a head-on collision that killed them both. Mendoza survived.
Shortly after the crash, while still grieving for their daughter Marisa, the Catronio family created Marisa’s Way to make sure their lost lives led to greater highway safety. The organization is now offering several Coral Springs High School students a chance to win scholarships from the organization.
“We presented three scholarships today, said Gary Catronio, CEO of Marisa’s Way. “The essays were good. We always pick up bits and pieces and it’s nice to see their input. Anything they can say to encourage safe driving or discourage [dangerous driving] is good.”
Seniors Rachel Wechsler and Ashleigh Dinnall each won $1,000 and Junior Max Baron won $500.
Marisa and Kaitlyn were both 2010 graduates of Marjory Stoneman Douglas and it was the first High School where students were presented with scholarships for writing an essay with the best idea to improve highway safety.
The organization has already put in place new wrong-way detection systems on the Sawgrass Expressway’s off-ramps which light up and alert FHP when wrong-way drivers approach. The new pilot program for this detection system is now installed on five exit ramps on the Sawgrass Expressway, ten on the Turnpike Extension, and several in Orlando and Tallahassee.
Catronio said besides those, they are working on other ways to make the roadways safer. “I’m working on retractable spike sticks. If you can puncture the tires on a car, you can keep it from going over 30 mph. My daughter experienced 97 [mph speeds]. The one that I’m designing, once they pass the wrong-way signs, the retractable spike strips are deployed.”
After the assembly, the families then led a procession of friends and supporters on a drive on the Sawgrass Expressway where the accident happened and on Monday night, in honor of Kaitlyn and Marisa, Chinese lanterns were released into the sky.