Reflections – Student Creativity Defines County

May 30, 2023

DeKalb County boasts a broad history of competition for students across the county to highlight their talent. Competition involving showing livestock, playing or singing music, presenting essays, or giving orations are common. But students also competed in Latin, marbles, designing window treatments, and in typing, shorthand, and bookkeeping.

Sometimes, though, changes driven by student creativity come to meaningfully define key parts of DeKalb County.

In January 1968, the Sycamore Sign Commission was formed “to display the city’s pride of itself to travelers.” The new commission immediately launched a Design A Sign contest for the students of Sycamore. By March, downtown merchants displayed the work of eleven finalists for the public to view. Scott Taylor won first place for the Junior High School Division. In the Elementary School Division, fifth graders Vickie Lynn Linville of Central School and David Taylor of West School tied for first place.

Sycamore fifth graders Vickie Lynn Linville of Central School and David Taylor of West School tied for first place in the Design a Sign contest in 1968 which lead to the “Life Offers More in Sycamore” sign.

The winning ideas influenced the final design for a set of eight-foot by fifteen-foot signs that read, “Life Offers More in Sycamore.” The signs, placed along the roads entering Sycamore, came to define Sycamore and stood for decades. One of the original signs is on view in a central location in downtown Sycamore.

In January 1988, the DeKalb County Board and the Board’s Transportation Committee announced the Name the Road contest for all county elementary school children. Charles Marshall, who originated the idea for the contest, said, “It seems to me that they would have fun doing it. I think it would be a good experience for them that involved knowing a little of how county government operates.” The road then ran from the east I-88 exit to Barber Greene Road but had never been officially named.

Malta Elementary School student Catherine Rogers won the Name the Road contest in 1988 with Peace Road. Catherine is pictured with her family on Peace Road.

The County Board chose the name submitted by eight-year-old Malta Elementary School student Catherine Rogers. Roger suggested Peace Road “because everyone wants peace.”

The road was dedicated with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Aug. 22, 1988. It now stretches to Plank Road and Route 23.

In 1993, after the delicate work of successfully consolidating Waterman and Shabbona school districts, the middle school and high school students voted to decide the official name of the consolidated Waterman-Shabbona school district. From a list of 80 names from community residents, an eight-person naming committee sorted the choices to five for the student body to vote on. The school board approved these, but “the students were the only ones who could choose a name.”

Students chose Indian Creek as the name of the newly consolidated Waterman and Shabbona school district in 1993. Shown is the first Indian Creek 8th grade graduation.

The students picked the name Indian Creek in a reportedly “landslide victory.” Students used the same process to choose a mascot.

Information provided by the DeKalb County History Center. For more information visit