Shifting into high gear


photo by Lukas Goodwin

Junior Celeste Dixon takes down the roof of her convertible. She drove it to and from school every day.

Of all the liberties students gain as upperclassmen – privilege days, a reserved senior section at pep rallies, even joining the powderpuff team – driving to school every day is the most popular. Teenagers can get their driver’s license as soon as they turn 16, so juniors and seniors get to park their shiny new (or really, old) cars right in front of the school for everyone to see.

Almost all students inherited their cars from their parents, like Junior Celeste Dixon and her sister, Dessa. Celeste owns a gray convertible, complete with a removable top, and Dessa has a dark van with a stripe painted across it. 

Dixon’s parents let her older sisters choose their own cars in the past, so the tradition was carried on to let her and her twin take the convertible and van.

“I don’t think she really cared what car she would drive,” Dixon said. “I didn’t want to drive the big van, so I took the cooler car.”

Even with used cars, drivers like to personalize them to make them stand out. Junior Haley Hernandez bought her gray and pink Chevrolet Camaro used off the internet. The car is from 2010, but Hernandez wanted to give it a fresh style, so she added custom LED lights.

“I saw them on other cars,” Hernandez said. “I wanted to see how they would look on my car.”

Senior Jake Ferry, who also owns a 2010 Camaro, got it as a hand-me-down when he turned 16. Not liking its original red paint job, he decided to customize it with a green vinyl wrap.

“They say I drive a booger,” said Ferry. “But it’s great. It looks better than red.”

Some who inherited their rides from their parents, like junior Devyn Cannata, were faced with a certain challenge: stick shifts. In a world where stick shifts are nearly extinct and self-driving cars are on the rise, it can be jarring for some teenagers to learn how to drive it.

Cannata, like other high schoolers, only got her Honda Accord so long ago. Likewise, there was a learning curve in becoming skilled at driving it.

“It took a long time to get the hang of it,” said Cannata. “It’s challenging. You have to pay attention.”

Even despite such challenges, young drivers appreciate the tradition of passing down cars through the family. Dixon holds many memories of family drives, in her what is now her sister’s van, to visit her grandparents.

Although her convertible likely will not last long enough to be passed onto her own future kids, Dixon still values the idea of giving kids their own car.

“I think it’s cool,” Dixon said. “It’s sort of helping them get involved more…  without being a direct part of [their lives].”