The petite 18-year-old couldn’t hide her jittery knees, all of a sudden thrust on stage in front of 340 classmates with several news cameras in her face.
That morning, she woke up for her last day at Perrysburg High School — a time to say goodbye to her teachers and watch the senior class video full of photographs of baby-faced elementary days and the awkward middle school years.
But before lunchtime, the day’s vibe changed rather quickly for Jennifer Lee.
She cruised around the back of the school in a new silver 2012 Hyundai Elantra, valued at $18,550.
The Perrysburg senior won the car, donated by Taylor Automotive Group, in a random lottery meant to cure students of senioritis.
“I’m more shocked,” Miss Lee said, feeling the same adrenaline from when her golf team won the league championship in October. “I can’t believe this really happened to me.”
Ironically, the new car will get left behind when Miss Lee heads to Ohio State University next school year to study pharmacy or chemistry. Freshmen aren’t allowed to bring cars onto campus.
“For sure I’m not going to let my sister drive it,” Miss Lee said.
For months, there was a buzz at school leading up to Wednesday’s car giveaway as students predicted who would win the new vehicle, said student Jessica Dudley, 18, of Perrysburg.
The giveaway is a three-year tradition at the school.
Seniors’ names get submitted into the annual drawing whenever they earn A’s on their quarterly grades, get involved in after-school activities, win teachers’ praise, or have good attendance.
By the end, Miss Lee’s name was picked out of more than 2,000 entries.
She raised the keys above her head, in a shy but triumphant sort of way, as students cheered in the high school’s auditorium. Nine other students won gift cards.
It’s not the first time high school students won free cars. Earlier this month, Springfield High School senior Amanda Coop received a donated 1998 Buick Regal after prom.
In Perrysburg, the giveaway is an incentive for students to work hard through the year, said the automotive group’s general manager Steve Taylor of Perrysburg.
“It’s a way to give back to the students,” Mr. Taylor said, adding the group will also pay the taxes on Miss Lee’s car so her only expense will be insurance.
Before, Miss Lee drove a black 2001 Toyota Camry, her first car she called her “little baby.”
But the Elantra “beats that one by far,” she said.
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