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DeKalb High School fights distracted driving, earns $25K grant

DeKALB – Even though DeKalb High School earned a $25,000 grant for drawing thousands of commitments to safe driving, the mission to encourage youths to practice safe driving isn’t over. 

At Friday’s girl’s basketball game between DeKalb and Yorkville, school officials announced DeKalb was one of the top 100 schools eligible for a grant awarded by State Farm. Last year, the company created Celebrate My Drive, a campaign to raise awareness about teen driving safety. More than 3,000 schools participated. 

Tricia Maxwell, who contacted the school about participating in Celebrate My Drive, said the school is going to continue promoting safe driving in the community. 

“Even though it’s over … we still need to think about driving safe,” she said. 

The campaign encouraged people age 14 and older to sign pledges online to drive safely between Oct. 18 and Oct. 26. High schools that secured the most pledges were eligible to win $100,000 and a concert by Kelly Clarkson. Runners-up were eligible for $25,000 grants. 

Portions of the $25,000 grant will be given to each school in DeKalb School District 428 for educational purposes while $10,000 will be used to continue reinforcing safe driving among teens. 

“I think it says something about the people in our community,” said Mark Sykes, DeKalb High School driver’s education teacher. “It was really getting the message out there and that our community makes good decisions behind the wheel. I was just pleased.” 

Sykes and the high school’s faculty was counted by State Farm Agent Scott Zeimet as one of the reasons for the high school’s success with the initiative. Several State Farm representatives attended Friday’s announcement, along with district staff and the school’s principal, Tamra Ropeter. 

“Winning a prize is good,” Ropeter sad. “But really, pushing safe driving is even more important.” 

The school received support from sponsors such as KishHealth System and Brian Bemis Automotive Group.

Sykes said gathering commitments from the district wouldn’t have been possible without the help of sponsors and even Sycamore High School. 

“That was the big reason why we won because we publicized this through the paper but then through the banners around town,” he said, “through the street signs around town.” 

Other help came from about 30 Celebrate My Drive high school student leaders. The leaders went to different area nonprofit groups and met with students to spread the word about Celebrate My Drive.

Avery Maxwell was one of the student leaders who helped by making speaking engagements, signs and cards. 

“Even though the whole thing is done, it’s still about safe driving,” he said. 

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