Sometimes tragedy sparks the courage to fight for an important change. That was certainly true for Devynne Duke.
In her first year at UNF, Duke spent her time like many other freshmen – studying, going to class or even taking a stroll through campus. In late August last year, Duke received terrible news. Her twin brother had been hit at an intersection near her home in Volusia County by a person texting and driving. This wasn’t the first accident at this intersection. Earlier in the year, a sheriff had been killed and a few days after her brother’s accident, another young woman died.
“It was one of the scariest moments in my life because my brother couldn't remember what he just said and kept repeating the same things over and over again,” Duke said.
At that moment Duke decided that something had to be done. She started a petition to improve this deadly intersection. After her petition went viral via Reddit, she obtained over 20,000 signatures and a $5,000 donation for her brother. Though this was a major success, Duke did not stop there.
“What really set off the whole movement and changes at the intersection was when I personally emailed local politicians including the Senate, governor, Florida Department of Transportation, and the mayor,” Duke said. “Our voice was heard, because we made sure it was, and we didn't back down without getting a long-term solution.”
Tree branches were removed so drivers could better see flashing red lights at the intersections, and new LED lights were installed. Reflective strips were also added to the intersection along with extra stop signs. As for a long-term solution, county officials approved and secured funding for a round-about to be built at the intersection in the following years.
Duke was relieved to know that these changes might have a positive impact on people's lives in this community, and possibly save lives,” Duke said. “Without a voice, change can't occur.”
With her journey in college just beginning, Duke hopes to continue to be a voice for change in the world.