Story by Sonja Bailes, Special to the Press-Tribune
Parkway students did not know why they were being summoned to an assembly Wednesday morning.
Their pep rally for the undefeated Panthers was not scheduled until the next day. But it quickly became apparent, though, that the song “Celebration” being played on the speaker system was most appropriate.
Parkway was in the top 50 schools in the large school division of the State Farm national “Celebrate My Drive” competiiton. For students making teen driving safety commitments, Parkway Principal Dr. Nichole Bourgeois was presented with a $25,000 check.
“If you know one thing about Parkway High School, it is excellence. We strive for excellence,” Principal Dr. Nichole Bourgeois told the crowd. “Parkway came together as a community and made daily pledges to focus on safe driving practices,” she added, elaborating about Celebrate My Drive, the national State Farm contest in October that focused on teen driving safety.
Tony Smith, State Farm’s Northwest Louisiana Sales Leader, further explained Celebrate My Drive.
“Car crashes are the number one killer of teens across America and their first year driving is the most dangerous,” Smith said. “We decided to take a positive approach with the event at the Louisiana Boardwalk while emphasizing safe driving practices.”
Students across the United States and Canada were encouraged to make daily online safe driving commitments. Smith pointed out more than 3,500 schools participated and more than 6.3 million pledges were made between Oct. 18-26. As an incentive, schools with the most commitments would win cash awards and a concert from national recording artist Kelly Clarkson.
Applause erupted as Smith announced Parkway was in the top 50 schools in the large school division, then presented Dr. Bourgeois with a $25,000 check.
“We at State Farm, and especially our local agents, are very proud of the efforts of the students, faculty and community supporting Parkway, by making safe driving commitments and having positive conversations about teen driver safety,” said State Farm Vice President-Agency Kimberly White. “We believe that people who engaged and made commitments online will realize a lasting positive influence on their thinking about driving safety.”
As part of the grant, Parkway will use 10 percent of the money to implement the program it devised called RIDE, which stands for Rewarding Informed Drivers Everywhere.
The one-year program will go toward supplementing driver education courses, providing teens with refresher information and instilling the mind-set that driving education is forever. KPAW will also help promote the message via Panther CLAWS video lessons and it will be carried out at Think First assemblies and at Parkway’s 2014-15 Homecoming Parade. The remaining money can be used at the principal’s discretion, which Dr. Bourgeois said would include student picnic tables, technology and enhancements to the gym.
While excited about the school’s $25,000 winnings, Bourgeois made a pledge of her own to the student body and State Farm.
“Next year we will win the $100,000 and the concert!”