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Philomath High School senior Holly Kampfer knows she wants to help others.

Only 17 years old, Kampfer has already been through the type of challenging life experiences that can demoralize the best of people.

Nearly a year ago, her grandmother went through emergency brain surgery and Kampfer stayed by her side. Meanwhile, she had been fighting through her own serious health issues and missed three months of school.

But she emerged on the other side with a strong character and a true sense of what she wants to do with her life. Ultimately, Kampfer hopes to provide medical care in an emergency room setting.

For right now, her involvement in a “don’t text and drive” safety campaign spreads a message that she hopes will help others by saving a few lives.

“I know I’ve heard a lot of stories from my friends and like with my family and almost getting into car wrecks — it’s really scary,” Kampfer said about being on a cellphone and driving. “Even looking down at your phone for one second can literally take your life away from you.”

Or someone else’s life.

“I think it’s a problem,” she added. “There are a lot of deaths and injuries from it and it’s just not worth it.”

Bruce Berg, a Springfield photographer, has organized the effort to put up the billboards for seven years now. The most recent set — five in the Eugene-Springfield area — appeared this summer, including one that features Kampfer as one of the models.

Kampfer said she learned about Berg through an Instagram post about modeling. She applied and Berg called to set up a time to meet with her and her mom.

Said Kampfer, “We got everything set up and got the head shot stuff done and we scheduled another appointment and he asked, “Do you want to be on one of the billboards?”

She obviously said yes and is one of more than 20 of Berg’s models included in the safety message project.

The program took hold in Berg back when his daughter was in high school and she acted a part in a demonstration about what could happen if you drink and drive. Berg thought to himself, “Do they talk about texting and driving?”

Organizations and others like Berg have tried to get the message across that texting and driving can be deadly. According to a study conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, texting while driving is six times more likely to cause a crash than intoxication. Studies reveal that on the average day, 11 teens die in crashes caused by texting and driving.

Berg said it’s a huge problem, even with Oregon’s new distracted-driving law that provides a more strict ban on cellphone use while driving.

“Even if it’s just one person that thinks, ‘I shouldn’t do that anymore’ … if it’s just one person, it can save a life,” Berg said.

Kampfer appears with a few other models on the billboard with the message, “Don’t text, don’t drive” with “#itcanwait.”

The billboard with Kampfer went up on Highway 99 just south of the Beltline Highway, viewable for motorists heading north. Brighter Smiles sponsors the billboard on which Kampfer appears. The billboards were expected to come down this month.

Berg asks all the teens involved with the billboard project to make a commitment.

“They have to promise to me in front of their parents that they will never text and drive,” Berg said.

Kampfer doesn’t seem to have any issues with committing to something to reach her goals. During the last spring term, she took two writing classes at Linn-Benton Community College so she could start completing requirements for nursing school.

Just a few weeks ago, she started a certified nursing assistant class in association with her Philomath High School senior project. Then comes state board exams and more college classes during the coming school year leading up to her application to LBCC’s nursing program.

Kampher’s used to doing what it takes to get her academics in order. She worked through two bouts of mononucleosis and missed several weeks of school. To make up for it, she had to go to summer school not only to catch up, but to secure enough credits to be able to participate in extracurricular activities.

Today, she finds herself fighting through another health issue with autoimmune disease, which takes her to Portland for treatment through specialists. All of these experiences helped her take a certain path with her education.

“I want to help other people,” she said. “This past August, almost a year ago, my grandma was admitted to the hospital and had to have emergency brain surgery. I stayed with her a couple of nights because she was really sick. Just being in that environment and seeing nurses helping people in the good ways and the bad ways, it really made me think.”

For a career, Kampher wants to work in a hospital — “definitely in the ER.”

A proud mother will tell you about the determination and perseverance that she sees in her daughter. Hard work to excel in school in the face of health issues proves it. Her willingness to spread a message of safety helps complete the picture.

Does she see herself as a role model?

“I think I am because I’m putting myself out there on a billboard and sharing that the message is true and I want to spread that to other people,” Kampher said. “I feel like I can have an influence on others to just try to have a really positive outlook.

“I think being positive effects other people,” she added. “If you’re negative and hurt other people, that’s not what you should be doing.”

As for the billboard project, Kampher hopes the messages worked.

“Just having people read it, it might make people think twice before making a decision like that,” she said.

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