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May 10, 2006

Governor Blagojevich honors dedicated high school educator with PATH Award

Judy Weber-Jones’ recognized for commitment to teaching high school students how to be safe drivers

GIBSON CITY – Governor Rod Blagojevich today named Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley High School (GCMS) Driver Education teacher Judy Weber-Jones as the latest recipient of the People Are Today’s Heroes (PATH) Award for her remarkable work helping make sure students are safe drivers. The program created by Weber-Jones has significantly increased seatbelt usage among young drivers, and significantly decreased speeding tickets and accidents in the Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley area since 2004.

“Judy is a shining example of the impact one person with vision and strong commitment can have to make great things happen. By teaching students how to be safe drivers, she’s having a real impact on the life of these kids and their community,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “This truly makes Judy Weber-Jones one of today’s heroes.”

The Governor’s PATH Award recognizes groups or individuals who, through their hard work and commitment, improve the lives of those in their community and help Illinois move forward in the areas of health care, public safety and education. The PATH Award was given to Ms. Weber-Jones by Randy Dunn, State Superintendent of Education on behalf of Gov. Blagojevich.

Weber-Jones led her students on a project, which was inspired by a tragic accident caused by speeding involving local twin brothers Steve and Greg Arends. Greg Arends died, but his sibling lived thanks to seat belt usage.

GCMS students produced Safe Driving DVDs, original soundtracks, and PowerPoint presentations that were shown school-wide and throughout the community.

“The Illinois State Board of Education and educators around the state applaud Ms. Weber-Jones’s work to help the children in her community stay healthy and safe,” said Superintendent Dunn.

Students at Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley High School in Gibson City were inspired to participate in the 2005-2006 Project Ignition program, largely because of the tragic Arends accident. Project Ignition, sponsored by State Farm and coordinated by the National Youth Leadership Council, gives high school students and their teachers a unique opportunity to work together in addressing the critical issues of teen driver safety and how it affects them, their community and the world around them.

Assemblies, a mock accident, seat belt convincer, roll over demonstration and fatal vision goggles and golf carts were coordinated with local police, fire, EMT, hospital, coroner and funeral homes. The impact on the student population was remarkable.

According to local statistics, since the program was started in the Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley area:

  • Seat belt usage increased: Freshmen 65.8% to 86.3%; Sophomores 75.9% to 94.3%; Juniors 71.6% to 84.0%; Seniors 67.95% to 93.8%
  • Speeding tickets decreased: for 16-18 year olds decreased from 7 to 2
  • Accidents decreased: for 16-18 year olds decreased from 30 to 10; for age 19 and older decreased from 19 to 9

To learn more about the project, visit:

Illinois State Board of Education
100 North First Street
Springfield, IL 62777