- Associated Press - Friday, May 20, 2016

RICHMOND, Ind. (AP) - For 76 area high school seniors, perfect attendance this year meant a lot of different things. For some, it meant getting to see friends every day. For others, it was a chance to learn.

But for all of them, it also meant an equal shot at winning either a new car or a college scholarship valued at $18,000 through the eighth annual School Is Cool initiative.

The event recognized the six-dozen-plus seniors for maintaining high levels of academic performance, particularly in having perfect attendance, during the event Wednesday night at Wetzel Ford in Richmond. Each of the students recognized at the event attend school in Wayne County.

“We think it’s important to reward hard work, and going to school every day is one of the most important things they can do as students,” said Garry Kleer, president of First Bank Richmond, a primary event sponsor. “Attendance in the classroom is almost always (reflective) of how these kids will be when it comes to work.”

For the first time in the history of the event, the student who won the grand prize chose the car over the cash. Brandon Gentry, a student at Richmond High School, decided on the Dodge Dart over three other cars - a Honda Fit, a Chevrolet Cruze and a Ford Fiesta - which were provided by Wetzel Auto Group.

“I’m going with the car because it’s a more (practical investment), I think,” Gentry said. “Either way, I’m really thankful. I mean, a lot of kids don’t see a reason to want to come to school. … For me, I don’t see a reason not to.”

Gentry said a family member will receive his current car upon him taking ownership of the Dart. He plans to attend Indiana University East in the fall and eventually hopes to attend medical school. He also doesn’t plan on quitting his run at perfect attendance once he gets to college.

“Honestly, I’ve had perfect attendance for the past (nine years), and I don’t see a reason to stop that,” he said. “It’s just one of those things for me,”

Each student at the event was given a prize of some kind, which ranged in value from $50 to the thousands, including a laptop-printer combination prize.

According to Lynn Wetzel, owner of Wetzel Auto Group, offering students the chance to be rewarded for their accomplishments just makes sense.

“It doesn’t matter to us if they choose the car or the scholarship,” Wetzel said. “We just care that these kids are going to (class) every day and they have an investment in their education.”

Centerville-Abington Community Schools Superintendent Phil Stevenson said programs like School is Cool are major incentives for students in his district.

“I think things like this, that reward these kids for having perfect attendance … they are really helpful for not just the students, but for the districts as well,” he said. “Having kids who aren’t just coming to school because they have to but because they want to is an incredible thing. That kind of effort should be rewarded.”

Centerville High School senior Ashley Toschlog, who also plans to attend IU East in the fall, said she’s become accustomed to getting to school early and making the most of her education.

“I know the importance of education, and it’s something I don’t want to take for granted,” she said. “I know it’s going to help me in the long run.”

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Source: (Richmond) Palladium-Item, (https://pinews.co/1TqJmF4).


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