A LaGrange, Ga., high school student won a car in this new incentive program for having good attendance, good grades and good behavior — but she almost missed her chance.
During the pep rally-style drawing Friday at LaGrange High School, officials thought junior Jennifer Espinoza was absent because she didn’t immediately respond when her name was called as the winner of a new Toyota Corolla.
“I thought they called another Jennifer and I got confused,” she said. “I didn’t want to get my hopes up that I had a chance to win the car.
“This is an amazing feeling. I came to school every day just hoping to win something. When my name was drawn in the top 10, I just wanted to be one of the top five … but I won.”
Out of the 1,148 students, 153 qualified for the drawing because they met the following criteria this school year:
▪ No more than five absences.
▪ Passing all classes with an average of 70 or better.
▪ No in-school or out-of- school suspensions.
LaGrange High School principal Alton White said only five students would have qualified last year if the school offered this incentive program then.
“It’s amazing what these students work for,” White said. “At the mid-year point, we had about 500 that qualified, and then flu season hit. That knocked a lot of the students out of the running. If we do this again next year, I am willing to bet we would have more than 153 eligible students.”
The grand prize was donated by Michael Stogner, owner of LaGrange Toyota. Stogner welcomed White’s request to help this program.
“I am a third-generation LaGrange graduate, and when Mr. White called me with this idea, I knew we had to support it in some kind of way,” Stogner said. “We are excited to see the students work hard towards winning the car.”
The school system’s other two high schools also received cars from partner dealerships as an incentive for students to have good attendance, good grades and good behavior. All-Pro Automotive donated a car to Callaway High School, and Kia of LaGrange donated a car to Troup High School.
Oh, and Espinoza had one more complication in her victory: Although she can sit in the vehicle and enjoy that new-car smell, she can’t drive it yet — because she doesn’t have a driver’s license.
“I didn’t know I would be winning a car,” she explained. “I was hoping to get a car after high school because my family had other priorities, but now I will definitely get my driver’s license this summer.”
Regardless, the incentive program clearly worked for Espinoza.
“This motivated me to be at school,” she said. “Also, if you miss school, it is a struggle to get back on track. For me, it was important to come to school and focus on graduating.”
She plans become a cosmetologist or attend Savannah College of Art and Design. She wants to earn a degree in Spanish so she can eventually teach the language.