Given the choice between a free, brand new Honda Civic or a free, brand new Volkswagen Jetta, Aynor High School junior Bridgette Blanton took just a couple of minutes and a quick look-over of each Tuesday evening before deciding shed take the $21,358 Civic.
Blanton got to make the choice because she was one of 135 high school students in Horry and Georgetown counties with perfect attendance for the last school year. For the fourth year, the East Coast Honda/Volkswagen dealership put the names of the perfect attendees in a metal barrel, spun it around and around and picked out one to get a new car.
If you keep a kid in school, their grades go up, their whole attitude toward school goes up, dealership owner Greg Smith said before the drawing.
His words echoed those of school administrators in Horry and Georgetown counties.
Anytime a kid is not in class, said Ben Hardee, director of guidance, vocational and technical education for Horry County Schools, the ability for them to grasp information is greatly reduced.
Hardee explained that getting class information after a day missed is like trying to catch up on a telephone conversation that you hadnt followed as well as you should have. Information just doesnt come out the same the second time around.
Randy Dozier, superintendent of Georgetown County Schools, said he makes a point to stress the importance of attendance to students.
You have to show up, he said.
Hardee said Horry schools contact a students parents each time he or she misses a day. High school students are allowed five unexcused absences. A sixth means a failing grade that can be erased from the record only through a make-up class.
Hardee also said that attendance is one of the major questions employers have about students who go right from high school to the workforce. Repeated and frequent absences, he said, are one of the top indicators of students who drop out of school.
Dozier said the average attendance for high school students is probably in the 95 percent range, which seems a high figure, but is lower than average attendance of elementary and middle school students. The older a students gets, he explained, the more things there are to compete for his or her attention.
Smith said East Coast was searching for a different kind of way to salute local education when he saw a program on CNN about another dealership giving cars to students for perfect attendance. He said East Coast officials bounced the idea off superintendents of Horry and Georgetown schools before they started the program.
Dozier said the possibility of winning a new car is certainly an incentive for high school students to try for perfect attendance. There is some buzz about the giveaway among students, he said, and we promote it and put it out there like other things we do.
Blanton said she didnt start out last school year with the idea of winning a new car, but when she thought of the possibility, it excited her.
She went to East Coast for Tuesdays drawing with her parents and brother, as many other entrants had friends and family with them, just in case.
Blanton, 17, has her learners permit now, but said shell be getting her drivers license in a matter of weeks so she can drive her prize to school next school year.
Contact STEVE JONES at 444-1765.