(Posted February 15, 2002)

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Nicole Lewis, a Juniata College freshman from Buck Hill Falls, Pa. in Monroe County, is not married with children and has only been driving for two years, but this 19-year-old student knows more about protecting infants and young children in car seats than many mothers.

Lewis, the daughter of Jerry Lewis of Buck Hill Falls and Susan Lewis of Philadelphia, is a Certified Child Passenger Seat Safety Technician, a title she earned by taking an intensive 32-hour training course and passing a hands-on skill test and a 108-question multiple-choice exam. On top of that, she was first certified two years ago at age 17.

"At the time I was the youngest person who had ever taken the training," says Lewis. "I've been baby-sitting since I was 10 and I have always been a responsible person, so becoming a technician was something that interested me."

Lewis clicked with child car seat safety in her junior year of high school at Evergreen Community School in Cresco, Pa., when she organized a service project centered on a car seat safety check in her community. She became so interested in the topic that she decided to pursue the full training regimen.

Today she is listed as a technician on a Web site for the National Highway and Transportation Safety Administration. She also operates her own Web page, a buying guide for child car seats at: http://pages.ivillage.com/buyingguide/home/html. She and a friend wrote an extensive and informative consumer guide. Lewis also recently spoke on the "Grass Roots of Child Passenger Safety on the Internet" at the International Child Passenger Safety Technical Conference.

"Sometimes it's hard for parents to believe that they're getting their information from a college student," Lewis admits. "But what interests me is the technical aspect of car seat safety and being able to explain that to parents simply."

At Juniata, the first-year student has not been actively involved with car seat safety training, although she has kept up her certification. She did, however, bring along a car seat when she moved into Juniata's dorms. "Manufacturers give me car seats to use as samples," she explains. "I have about 12 at home and every so often I will give away a few to purge my collection."

Although people might expect a car seat safety expert to major in medicine or product design, Lewis hasn't committed to a single focus for her studies yet. She feels Juniata's reputation as an institution where teaching and personal interaction are high priorities makes the college a perfect place for her.

"I graduated from high school in a class of five and I knew I couldn't be in a school with 10,000 students," she says. The teaching philosophy and the way classes are organized here at Juniata are perfect for me."

Contact April Feagley at feaglea@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3131 for more information.