It is the season of giving and a time to be thankful. Early Tuesday morning, the students and faculty at Sacred Heart School learned it could be joyful to receive when State Farm insurance agent Bryan Jenkins told those in attendance at an all-school assembly that they were the recipients of one of 22 $100,000 grants.
“I can’t tell you what this means for all of us at Sacred Heart,” Jenkins said. “I am just so excited for the school and it is a true blessing for us.
“It took a concentrated effort on everyone’s part especially the students and local businesses and the community who allowed us to go out and spread the word about the voting,” Jenkins added. “I am just thrilled for everyone.”
Sacred Heart was one of 681 schools who participated in the national “Celebrate My Drive Campaign” sponsored by State Farm Insurance.
To be eligible for the award, SHS students had to submit a creative video and a written proposal describing their support for the 2N2 safe driving message State Farm was promoting.
“Two eyes on the road, two hands on the wheel was the central theme for the campaign, and the video that Sacred Heart submitted was very clever and just an overall fantastic job,” Public Affairs Specialist for State Farm Kevin Gamble said prior to the assembly. “I was very impressed with the effort and enthusiasm these students showed.”
Student council president Emma Rollings and vice president Olivia Sobaski took the initiative in creating the video and the campaign that led to Sacred Heart being named one of the finalists for the program. The video stars seniors Charlie Wendt and Asa Wilt.
After the check presentation, SHS Foundation Development Director Liz Suter Van-Leer told a story regarding Wendt and Wilt.
“When they were little we always had to keep these two apart because they were always a little mischievous when they were together,” Van-Leer said with a smile. “I don’t know if they ever knew that or not, but the other day a teacher and I were talking and we said wouldn’t it be poetic if these two clowns won the school $100,000?”
For the two boys, that spirit of fun came through in the video.
“We wanted it to be fun and laid back,” Wilt said. “We really didn’t have a script or anything but we got a little creative and goofy with the message.
“The editing process helped a lot,” he added. “Really everyone helped, especially Mrs. Van-Leer.”
Both Jenkins, who initially told Van-Leer about the project, and all those at the school credited her with her dedication to getting the campaign off the ground and getting the word out to others to vote for SHS.
From the 681 participating schools 100 finalists were named in two categories, large and small school divisions.
Eleven schools in each division were selected as winners after a weeklong Internet voting campaign that ran from Nov. 9 through 13.
The district was notified of their win Nov. 20.
“We don’t reveal a specific place for the schools that are selected,” Gamble said. “We do look over and vet all of the votes though to make sure that there were no rule violations in the process.
“We want to make sure that no one does something that seems small and innocent that gives them an unfair advantage over another school,” Gamble added. “That’s why it took so long for the schools to be notified.
One other Missouri school, Macon High, was also selected as a top 11 finisher, Gamble said.
“Teen drivers are nearly three times more likely than adults to be killed in a fatal auto crash,” State of Missouri Department of Insurance, Financial Institutions and Professional Registration Director John Huff said after the assembly. “This program can help raise the awareness for students to take on the challenge to change those dangerous behaviors.
“We all think we can multi-task and do more than one thing,” he added. “This is such a great campaign by State Farm Insurance because students are the ones who can take the issue on and bring about change.”
The school has plans to purchase a new bus with a portion of the funds. The current bus is more than 15 years old and has some significant mechanical concerns, district officials said.
“This really showed a great deal of persistence on everyone’s part,” Pettis County Presiding Commissioner and SHS Alumni Association President David Dick said. “Getting an entire community organized and having them vote every day was not a small thing.
“I think this will help the school so much because we truly need a new bus, I don’t know that we’ve had one since I was a student here,” he added. “I think it is appropriate that in this season of advent, which is a time of waiting, our school was patient as we have been waiting for this day to come for a very long time and we are all truly blessed.”
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484