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Dexter McCarty pupils honor a classmate's memory with yard signs reminding drivers to be safe

COURTESY DRAWING: GRESHAM-BARLOW SCHOOL DISTRICT - Artist Leon urges drivers to pay attention.

After a tragic accident took the life of one of their classmates, earlier this year, art students at Dexter McCarty Middle School took some positive action, using art to remind people to drive safely.

City of Gresham staff worked with Karen Applegate, a Dexter McCarty art teacher, to launch an art contest asking students to create signs featuring traffic safety themes such as speeding, distracted driving and minding crosswalks.

"I believe that students did feel empowered by taking action after such a horrific tragedy in our McCarty family," Applegate said.

The city of Gresham received a grant from the Oregon Department of Transportation for the signs. The grant was used to create a traffic safety messaging campaign using lawn signs to encourage drivers to be careful when driving, especially around school zones.

"This was all done after we started our distance learning," Applegate said.

"Students created their designs using any medium they wished. However I focused on the Google Draw program as a method of showing them the possibilities of what they could do. This led to many of the entries having a bright bold appearance that translated well to street signs," she explained.

The contest received over 40 entries.

Eight creations were selected to be featured on the lawn signs accompanied by safety messages.

The project was inspired by the tragic death of 11-year-old Luis Medina, who was killed by a driver while walking to Dexter McCarty Middle School on Jan. 6.

Luis was in a marked crosswalk at the intersection of Southeast Hogan Road and Southeast Fifth Street near the school when he was killed.

Garrett Berquist, 26, was charged with manslaughter in the first and second degree, driving while under the influence of intoxicants and reckless driving. He has pleaded not guilty. His trial has been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The city of Gresham took action to make the area around the accident on Hogan Road safer for students and all pedestrians. The city expanded the school zone to include Hogan Road and plans a paved path along Hogan Road to create a safer walk to school.


Want a sign?

The city has more than 500 lawn signs to be distributed to the community to ensure everyone does their part to look out for one another on the road.

To pick up traffic safety lawn signs for your neighborhood at Gresham City Hall, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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