Three Wilson County schools have much to celebrate Friday as awards from the Celebrate My Drive program will be officially announced at Lebanon, Wilson Central and Mt. Juliet high schools with one getting a private concert from singer Kelly Clarkson.
For weeks during October, the State Farm-created national contest gave students at the three schools the chance to win grants ranging from $25,000-$100,000 by collecting online safe driver commitments.
Wilson Central High School was the top vote getter in the large school category and will be awarded a $100,000 grant and a concert featuring Grammy Award-winner Clarkson.
“We are very excited,” said Chip Bevis, Wilson Central assistant principal and athletic director. “We know things like this don’t happen to schools. We have to struggle to get every dime and penny. The grand prize of the $100,000 and the Kelly Clarkson concert, we are like wow. We can’t believe this is happening to us.”
Wilson Central and Lebanon were in the midst of the competition at about the same time the two schools were to play one another in football. Bevis said Gannon approached him and Lebanon assistant principal and athletic director Darian Brown about a friendly wager. That school’s athletic director would have to wear the opposing teams jersey for the rest of the game depending upon which school was ahead of the other at halftime.
“Without that, it would have been a friendly competition for a good cause,” Bevis said. “But that event really pushed us over the top. I’ve never really seen something take off like this. We have never seen the school morale be so high than during this time. “
Finishing in the top 10, Lebanon High School secured $100,000 for its safe driver commitments. Mt. Juliet High School will receive $25,000 for its commitments with a finish in the top 100 schools.
“I am so proud and impressed of the work that the students put into making that happen,” said Wilson County Director of Schools Tim Setterlund. “What a great demonstration of school unity and school pride.
“We were watching it from the central office almost daily. It was a great competition. To just have one that would place in the nation is phenomenal, but to have three. It’s a credit to the students. I have to give a big thanks to Jeff Gannon for spearheading it.”
Announcements at each of the high schools are scheduled for Friday. Lebanon High School will have an assembly at 10 a.m., Mt. Juliet High School at 1 p.m. and Wilson Central High School at 2:45 p.m. Local dignitaries and special guests will join State Farm representatives in making the official announcements. Students at Wilson Central were notified in an impromptu assembly Thursday afternoon after news leaked of the presentations.
“State Farm is proud of Wilson Central High School’s efforts to generate excitement among students, faculty and the entire community to make safe driving commitments and have positive conversations about teen driver safety,” said Jeff Gannon, local State Farm agent. “Our goal is to celebrate the joy of getting a license and encourage young people to be safe on the road.”
According to Gannon, the date, time and location of the Clarkson concert would be announced at a later date, but would be open only to students, faculty and administrators.
“It will be sometime in the spring,” Gannon said.
Gannon said car crashes are the No. 1 killer of teens, and a teen’s first year on the road is the most dangerous. To stimulate more safe driving conversations, State Farm specified that 10 percent of these funds be used to support ongoing teen driver safety efforts.
The need for more awareness around auto safety is supported in a report on distracted driving State Farm released this month. The July survey of nearly 1,000 motorists shines a light on a growing safety concern, people accessing the Internet while driving. Five years of data show a significant increase in the use of mobile web services while driving.
“Smartphones have introduced another set of distractions for drivers,” said Chris Mullen, director of technology research at State Farm. “In addition to reducing texting while driving, we must remain vigilant about the growing use of multiple mobile web services and their potential for generating additional distractions while driving.”