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Blue ribbon winner

By Staff | Apr 6, 2009

BEA ninth-grader Gretchen Klinkner stands in front of the billboard she designed as part of a class project. Below, members of the Faribault County Child Abuse Task Force, and law enforcement officials, tie blue ribbons on squad cars. April is Child Abuse Prevention month. To see more photographs of this event, log on to http://cu.faribaultcountyregister.com Staff photos by Chuck Hunt

A ninth grade student at Blue Earth Area High School recently used her skills on a computer to create a billboard advertisement.

Gretchen Klinkner won a contest with her design, which calls attention to the fact that April is Child Abuse Prevention Month.

The results of her creative talent can be seen on Highway 169 as drivers approach Blue Earth from the south.

The billboard lists her name at the bottom as the designer.

“Some of my friends called me right away and said, ‘Do you know your name is on a sign on the highway?’ I said I did know,” Klinkner says.

Ann Huntley, a social worker at BEA High School, says the members of the Faribault County Child Abuse Prevention Council were having trouble getting entries for this billboard design contest.

“They had contacted area schools but weren’t getting much response,” Huntley says. “That is when I contacted Linda Wells, the art teacher at BEA.”

Wells decided to make it a class assignment, and used it as part of the curriculum involving art and computers. That was back in January.

“I used PhotoShop to design the ad,” Klinkner says. “I found the picture of the child with a tear under their eye, and then worked from there.”

Huntley says they got a lot of good entries from the class, and the council decided to go with Klinkner’s ad as the one to use.

The billboard was put up in mid-March, in anticipation of being seen all through April.

In addition to the highway sign, the task force calls attention to child abuse prevention month by wearing blue ribbons.

Last week, they and local law enforcement officials gathered to tie blue ribbons on squad car antennas.

“We hope people see the blue ribbons and ask why they are there,” organizers say.

The Blue Ribbon Campaign began in Virginia in 1989 when a grandmother tied a blue ribbon to her van “to make people wonder and ask why.”

Her grandchildren had been abused, eventually resulting in the death of her grandson. She used the blue ribbon as a way to call attention to the problem.

The blue ribbons spread across the country as a way to call attention to the problem of child abuse.

President Ronald Reagan and Congress first declared April as National Child Abuse Prevention month in 1983.

In a report released in 2006, the latest year data is available from, over 905,000 nationwide were found to be victims of child abuse or neglect.

The billboard on Highway 169 asks the question, “What can you do to help.” For one ninth grade student at BEA, the answer to the question is easy.

She designed the sign.

“I hope people see it and think about the kids,” she says.