Tension was high as hundreds of students filled the bleachers of the gymnasium at Richmond Senior High School on Thursday afternoon. It was the moment they’d been waiting for all year long — the day one lucky student would get to drive home in a brand new car donated by Dieffenbach GMC Superstore in Rockingham.
A barrel of pink paper slips sat in the center of the gym. Energy pulsed through the room as Principal Keith McKenzie, Assistant Principal Steve Wood and Jeff Dieffenbach took turns selecting several names from the barrel.
It was an event that students have come to anticipate for the past eight years.
In the first round of drawings, student Richard Lassiter was selected to receive a $250 check from Dieffenbach for perfect attendance from first grade to his senior year, as well as Devontae Jermaine Watkins, who will be receiving a check for perfect attendance also. Students Desmond Marshall, Tiarra Watkins and Jonathan Harrell were all called forward to receive $100 checks. Student Duncan Grant was also the recipient of a $250 check from Dieffenbach during the drawing.
Student selection for the Dieffenbach Attendance and Grade Incentive Award is based each year on a certain set of criteria: each six week grading period, a student can earn an entry by not being absent more than one day, having no Saturday School/OSS and having an 85 percent or above grade average. Students have the opportunity to earn up to four entries per six weeks.
In addition to student awards, administrators also recognized the 2013 Teacher of the Year for the high school: Science teacher Lisa Evans. Evans was awarded a check in the amount of $250 from Dieffenbach.
Anticipation remained at an all-time high as students waited for the final announcement: the winner of the new car.
“Jeff Dieffenbach and Dieffenbach General Motor Superstore is just one of those community supporters that you value so much as a school — and even as a county,” said McKenzie as the GM Superstore owner joined him by the barrel.
He added that over the past eight years at Richmond Senior High, more than $160,000 in brand new vehicles had been awarded to select students.
“He is so committed to helping students and to be a part of the educational system,” McKenzie continued, thanking Dieffenbach for his generosity.
“Seeing all these bright faces in here shows us that we’re on the right path,” Dieffenbach said to the student body. He also thanked the faculty for their great contributions to student success.
A drum roll sounded as Dieffenbach drew the final name from the barrel — the winner of a brand new 2013 automobile.
This year’s winner, they announced, was sophomore Shawn Everett.
Several seconds passed before Everett was recognizable as a throng of friends piled on top of him in the bleachers. The sophomore eventually made his way down to the front and appeared slightly dazed from the announcement.
Once outside, Everett took a few minutes to deliberate on which car he wanted to take home. After studying them inside and out, he decided on a 2013 Chevrolet Sonic LS — a car valued at $16,685.
A crowd of friends stood behind him as he inspected the car, laughing and joking about Everett taking them all home in his new vehicle.
The sophomore’s excitement began to show as he interviewed with WPDE News Channel 15 and sat behind the wheel of the Sonic.
Everett said that in the past, he has driven a Rav4, and is looking forward to driving around the brand new car.
A few steps behind, Jeff Dieffenbach and his staff observed the scene.
Dieffenbach admitted that that moment was what kept him coming back each year.
“We ask ourselves every year — are we doing the right thing?” he said. “Are we impacting these students? One of the things we want to do is give back to the community.”
In the same respect, Dieffenbach said, all of his employees take great pride in being a part of the contest each year.
“They would all be here if they could,” he said.
McKenzie thanked Dieffenbach and his staff for their continuous support of the students of Richmond Senior High School.