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Sickles High School graduate Jenae Widrig had the magic key that opened the door to a brand new Toyota.

Recent Graduate Wins the Keys to Her Future

June 06, 2017 - Partners in Education

On a damp, rainy, gray day in Tampa, recent Sickles High School graduate Jenae Widrig received an unimaginable reward for her perfect attendance in school.  Toyota of Tampa Bay literally overflowed with students and their families as they took part in the “Perfect Car for Perfect Attendance” event, which honored seniors with at least one year of perfect attendance while in high school. Over 1,800 eligible HCPS seniors were invited to this event and about 450 actually pre-registered and/or participated.  Jenae left the dealership that day with the keys to a 2017 Toyota Yaris iA that will get her to and back from the USF St. Pete college campus next year as she begins her journey toward a degree in education (she wants to be a math teacher!)

Students lined up around the block, holding onto umbrellas, and standing close to family as they waited to sign in and receive their ticket – the ticket that would enter them into the drawing for the prized 15 keys that would be given out later in the morning.  To ease the students’ anxiety, the dealership provided valet parking, music, refreshments, and a D.J. who gave away prizes every 30 minutes to parents (including vouchers for lots of Toyota automotive services and even a Mac Airbook to one lucky mom!) 

Finally, as the 15 lucky ticket holders took their place on the stage, the crowd grew quiet.  Their tickets had been put back into the roller drum, and the order that they were drawn back out would determine the order of their attempt to unlock the driver’s side door to the new car.  The first student tried with no luck, as did the second, third, and fourth, all the way to the fourteenth student – Jenae.  At first, she seemed to struggle with the key, but with a determined look on her face, she squared up her shoulders and put the key in once more, and then everyone grew quiet as Dan Sills, General Sales Manager who was assisting the students with their attempts, jumped up, threw his arms in the air, then took the key and turned it one more time.  Jenae pulled on the handle and the door flew open. 

When asked what it means to her to have won the car, Jenae quickly answered, “It means the world.  My mom is a single parent, and I never thought I would have a car.”  Jenae also refers to herself as a “studyholic with my face in a book 24/7”, which is why until now, although she has her learner’s permit, she has not had the time to get her driver’s license.  According to Jenae’s mother, Sharolyn, “Jenae has worked incredibly hard in school all her life.  This win is like the universe giving back.” 

Jenae is quick to give both her mother and her Grandma Ruthie (a retired ESE teacher), and Grandpa Jimmy Horton a shout out.  “They showed me what it takes in this world to be the best that I can be.”  Jenae also mentioned her younger relatives in Kentucky with whom she spends time every summer who were her inspiration to become a teacher

When asked what she would tell younger students who are questioning the reason for good attendance, Jenae quickly responded.  “School is the foundation of your life – without it, I wouldn’t have known who I am.  You need to be dedicated and hardworking, and good things will come to you.”  Congratulations Jenae!

To find out more about Toyota of Tampa Bay’s community efforts, visit their website at Enjoy photos from the Perfect Car for Perfect Attendance event in the Flickr album below. 

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