By Jan Boston Sellers
High school attendance is up and 10 cars have been given away. This is all thanks to some forward thinking educators along with Dave and Connie Kirk and the staff at Dave Kirk Automotive. This year marks the 10th anniversary, or a decade, of what the high school students call "Dave Kirk Drawing Day." Or, in layman's terms, some junior or senior from Cumberland County High School, Stone Memorial High School or Phoenix School wins a brand spanking new vehicle.
Each May, right before school is out, all three high schools' administrators band together, put together an assembly program and then sit back and watch as some young male or female student's name is drawn for a new vehicle.
I, like most of us in Cumberland County, am familiar with the attendance-based car giveaway program. I, also like most of us, had never been to the actual giveaway. That all changed this year as I was able to sit alongside Connie Kirk, County and Crossville mayors Kenny Carey and J.H. Graham, schools chief Aarona VanWinkle, and a host of others as we watched the anticipation build and culminate in SMHS senior Kayla Caron taking home a new car. A bright, red Chevrolet Sonic, to be exact. Every year, the location of the drawing changes. The 2012 drawing was at SMHS, and a CCHS student won. This year it was at CCHS and a SMHS student won.
Principal Janet Graham opened the 2013 ceremonies with recognition of dignitaries; introduction of last year's winner, Coco Bennett, and a performance by CCHS dance team. WOW Country Radio Station was also on hand to play some games and give away other prizes.
A lot of people initially think a student can't miss a single day all year if they want to qualify for the new car. This is not true. Here is how the program works. Each week a junior or senior has perfect attendance for the week, his or her name is put into the giveaway. For example, if you have perfect attendance the first week of September, your name will go into the drawing. If you miss a day the second week of September, your name does not go into the drawing. If you have perfect attendance the third week once again, you are entered into the quarterly drawing. Every week you have perfect attendance, you qualify for the quarterly drawing. Then, once each quarter, school officials pull out one junior and one senior name. They are pre-qualified for the end-of-the-year drawing. This continues each week and each quarter until the end of the school year at each high school. Phoenix High School, which has a lower population, draws two names each year. The program encourages attendance, has increased attendance among upperclassmen, but still allows students who may have to miss a day or so to qualify for the drawing.
The day of the giveaway, there were 17 names in the drawing. They were Shayla Christopher, Sharon Ulloa, Megan Johnson, Fiona Retzer, Gabby Norris, Jarrod Lee and Christine Jones from CCHS; Kate Zecher, Laura Nealon, Austin Blu Shillings, Amber Delk, Kayla Thomas, Tyler Yoder, who had two entries in the final drawing thanks to winning the quarterly drawing twice, and Kayla Caron, the car winner, from SMHS; and Ivy Schin and Lori Wieland from Phoenix School. The last name drawn is the car winner.
Kate Zecher was the first name drawn out and she won a new laptop. Kirk tells me giving a prize to the first name called out came about after his mother watched a live drawing one year. She said, "Dave, the first student drawn out deserves a big prize, too." Subsequent winners were then asked to pick a suitcase number which contained a prize and was being held by SMHS and CCHS cheerleaders, much like the Howie Mandel game show "Deal or No Deal."
All 17 names were drawn until the final name of Kayla Caron was left in the box. The SMHS senior was overwhelmed with excitement, rapidly shedding tears of joy as she was led outside the CCHS gym by Dave Kirk to select her new car. Kirk and company had a fleet of vehicles on display on the CCHS campus from which the winner could choose.
Caron, who graduates Friday, plans to attend Memphis School of Art, and says she is overjoyed she will have a car to drive to college. The 18-year-old senior said one of her first orders of business was to get a school parking pass so she could drive the new ride to school the next day! Her advice for upcoming juniors and seniors who want to win a Dave Kirk car: "Go to school, dye your hair red, join the dance team, take AP art and participate in a show at Cumberland County Playhouse."
She says both she and Bennett, last year's winner, did all of the above. She laughingly said she thinks doing this may increase next year's students' chances of winning a new vehicle.
I spoke with Dave about this amazing program and he said, "Cumberland County has been good to Connie and me and to Dave Kirk Automotive. This is one way we can give back to the community."
Dave also says he couldn't do it without the help of his amazing staff and said when faced with challenges over the past 10 years, such as the sluggish car industry and the opening of SMHS and Phoenix, his employees told him they wanted to do whatever they had to do to keep this car giveaway going. He also credited schools central office personnel Dr. Janet Brooker and Wendell Wilson with helping him get this program off the ground and keeping it going.
Obviously, it is successful. Attendance rates have been rising during the "The Key to Your Success" Dave Kirk Automotive years. Matter of fact, it is such a good idea, I wonder if Dave and Connie would consider doing it for county employees?
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High school commencement ceremonies started Wednesday night this week at Phoenix and will be conducted on Thursday at CCHS and Friday at Stone Memorial High School. Each high school also hosted individual class nights this week. The remaining Cumberland County students will have their last full day of classes May 20, with teachers only reporting on Tuesday and Wednesday. Students will be dismissed for the summer on Thursday, May 23, at 10 a.m.
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Tickets are on sale for next week's Taste of Crossville. The event will feature area and local restaurant and caterers' fare and will be held rain or shine on Thursday, May 23, at the Depot and Taylor Square. Tickets are $20 per person and may be purchased at the Depot, Shanks Center for the Arts or the Community Center in Fairfield Glade. Entertainment will be provided by Ozone Falls. Call Downtown Crossville, Inc., at 787-1324 for additional information.