Kentlake rises to the challenge | Guest commentary

By Joe Potts

Arguably, the most “dangerous” year of a young person’s life is the first year in which she or he drives. The statistics are tragically convincing: In 2009 in America, 10 teens died daily in auto accidents.

The risks for teen drivers are enormous, and that is why State Farm Insurance Company launched its Celebrate My Drive Campaign to educate young drivers.

And there is no question that knowledge of safe driving strategies and then effective practice with those strategies saves lives — the lives of our children.

At Kentlake, we are thankful that State Farm has acted proactively to increase safe driving awareness and education for teens. In the spring of 2012, our school was selected to participate in Celebrate My Drive. We accepted this challenge. We purposely moved our homecoming back a week so that we could focus our students’ attention meeting the State Farm challenge. Celebrate My Drive culminated with our students, staff, and community members attending the all-day teen safe driving event at Westfield-Southcenter Mall.

And because of the contributions of thousands of students, parents, community members, and friends of Kentlake — some voting as far away as Afghanistan — our school achieved its goal and won the $100,000 grant.

Daily our staff encouraged students to vote — the school with the most votes in its region won the grant. Our leadership teachers and students set up lunch time voting stations that offered those without laptops access to the State Farm web site. Daily we announced Celebrate My Drive and encouraged our students to visit the web site and to vote.

At open house, we encouraged our parents to support us in this challenge, and provided sites for voting in our commons. The end result was a successful bid, but the true victory came in form of support and faith in the potential of those who work, learn, and grow at Kentlake High School. Each vote was an act of faith; and the victory illustrates the degree of hope alive and well in our young people.

The question now is how to invest the grant money in our students. We plan to form a committee of students, faculty, and parents to determine effective ways to support educational priorities. Some of these priorities include teen safe driving education, scholarships, anti-bullying workshops, and food-for-the weekend programs for needy students. These represent a few, but not all, of the ways in which our students might benefit from the grant to Kentlake.

We are deeply thankful and appreciative for State Farm’s Celebrate My Drive.

Raising awareness and educating our students about driving strategies help teens make it home safely. For parents whose kids drive, that is a big deal. For our teachers and community members, providing opportunities for students to be successful academically so that they can productively contribute to society in a substantial way, that is a big deal for all of us who live, work, and thrive in the Kent School District.

Joe Potts, Ph.D, is in his third year as principal at Kentlake High School. He can be reached at joe.potts@kent.k12.wa.us.


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