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VBHS seeks help getting $100,000 grant

Van Buren students and residents can help the high school win a $100,000 grant and Kelly Clarkson concert by committing to drive safely each day Oct. 18-26.

Insurance agent Dustin Booth is sponsoring Van Buren High School as part of the State Farm Celebrate My Drive event, a week encouraging teens and members of the community to commit to driving safely on behalf of their high school.

“I’m passionate about helping out the community,” Booth said as to why he is sponsoring the event locally. “I think we all know someone who has died in a car accident. This is just a good opportunity to help prevent these unfortunate accidents.”

With more commitments comes a better chance for the high school to win one of 90 grants worth $25,000 or 10 grants worth $100,000. The school also may win one of two grand prizes - a Kelly Clarkson concert hosted by the school.

Participants have to register first, and must be at least 14 years of age to vote. Registration and voting is done online at www.celebratemydrive.com.

“It’s all just based on participating and voting,” Booth said. “It’s as simple as going to the website, choosing Van Buren High School and clicking to commit.”

There are less than 3,500 schools signed up for the event, giving Van Buren a better chance of winning if enough people vote, Booth said.

While commitments to safe driving can win money for the school, the purpose is to get more people - especially teens - focused and distraction-free while on the road, Booth said.

Motor vehicle fatality is the leading cause of death to teenagers, representing more than one-third of all deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

If the school wins, 10 percent of the grant must be used for a safe driving event at the school. The other 90 percent can be spent at the discretion of school officials.

If Van Buren won, much of the money would go toward scholarships, said Cindy Nelson, scholarship coordinator for Van Buren High School.

Nelson and Booth have been working together to bring Celebrate My Drive to Van Buren, promoting the funding opportunity with posters and personal reminders to contacts, Nelson said.

Booth was set to announce the event, which begins tomorrow, over the public address system at the high school both Tuesday and Thursday morning.

Students and staff have received special permission from Van Buren High School Principal Eddie Tipton to use their phones to vote during morning announcements each school day of the event, Nelson said.

Nelson is hoping Van Buren Freshman Academy and eighth grade students also will be able to participate, she said. Those who can definitely join in include parents, school staff and all area residents.

“It would be so great if every church, every committee…any civic organization could help us out, because the more votes we get the better off we’ll be,” Nelson said.

While State Farm often has programs to promote safe driving with teens, Booth said there is no marketing campaign attached.

“It’s truly just about raising money for the kids,” Booth said.

Created in 2012, this is the first year for participation in the Celebrate My Drive event. Booth plans to continue to locally sponsor the safe driving event each year it exists, he said.

“This is going to continue to grow and get better,” Booth said.

For more information or to learn how to register to vote, go online to www.celebratemydrive.com or contact Booth at (479) 262-2781.

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