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DeKalb High School students target distracted driving

Teens participating in Celebrate My Drive initiative

DeKALB – No traffic cone was safe as DeKalb High School students texting and wearing beer goggles tried to weave between them on scooter boards Thursday.

To help prevent accidents and fatalities because of distracted driving, students, staff and parents held an all-school assembly to kick off Celebrate My Drive online pledges. Sponsored by State Farm, the initiative encourages anyone age 14 or older to make online commitments from today through Oct. 26 to not drive distractedly. 

The two high schools that secure the most pledges are eligible to win $100,000 in grant money and an exclusive concert given by Kelly Clarkson, the first winner of “American Idol.” Runners-up are eligible for a $25,000 grant.

More than 3,500 high schools nationwide, including DeKalb, have registered to take part. Winners will be announced Dec. 9.

Tricia Maxwell, mother of 16-year-old DeKalb student Avery Maxwell, helped lead the school’s involvement in the program. After receiving an email from State Farm, she contacted Principal Tamra Ropeter and Mark Sykes, the driver’s education teacher, who thought it was a great idea.

“My son turned 16 this past year, and I became really aware of how dangerous distracted driving can be,” Maxwell said. “I reached out to the community, and everyone’s been really supportive.” 

As a driver’s education teacher and the father of 15-year-old DeKalb student Samantha Sykes, Mark Sykes said he was eager to get involved.

“We are sending a message about safe driving,” said Sykes. “You can be killed by driving and texting, and its not just you, it’s the other person, too. We want to win the concert, but we really want kids to be safe.”

Parents, teachers and students have been preparing for pledge week for the past month, and a group of about 30 students called the Celebrate My Drive leaders have been meeting weekly and giving talks to fellow students at lunchtime. They also have helped raise more than $4,000 in sponsorships from local businesses.

The money was put toward making T-shirts, buttons, banners and fliers to help spread the word. 

Students will be handing out fliers about how to pledge from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday at Schnucks grocery store, 975 S. Annie Glidden Road. 

“We always hear about distracted driving in driver’s ed, but no one ever thinks it’s going to apply to them until it does,” said Avery Maxwell, a junior at DeKalb. “We want to get the information out to students that getting in accidents and distracted driving is a real thing.”

Students and community members can vote by going to and registering to vote for DeKalb High School.

Anyone age 14 or older is eligible to vote, and one vote a day per registered email address is allowed.

Sykes said that if the school wins, it plans to host a community wide event in the spring to help promote safe driving. 

How to pledge

To support DeKalb High School, visit today through Oct. 26. One vote per email address is allowed each day.

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