Garden City High School student Spencer Turrentine didn’t expect to win.
The town’s Legacy Auto Center had partnered with GCHS to give away a brand new 2017 Ram 1500 pickup to a student who maintained perfect attendance for at least one nine-week period during the 2017-18 school year. On May 8, students and parents gathered at the dealership, with those eligible submitting their names into the drawing. The better the attendance, the more tickets entered.
The center’s owner, Jason Dougherty, said the event brought in the biggest crowd he had seen at the dealership. Five hundred students had qualified to enter, and they had to be present to win. Even before the drawing, the lot was packed and energized, he said.
Turrentine, an incoming sophomore, said he hadn’t been incredibly excited about the contest. He thought the promotion was fake. Maybe the dealership would loan out a car for a year, but he doubted they would give one away no strings attached, he said. The student was a day away from perfect attendance for the year, but he said he didn’t do it for the car.
“You know, I go to school. I want to keep my grades up and get a good education. So, I went for that reason only,” Turrentine said.
After the first few names were drawn with no luck, Turrentine said he wanted to leave. He’s glad he didn’t.
The importance of participating was at the core of the contest itself, Dougherty said. He heard about the promotion from friends in the business and reached out to the high school’s principal, Steve Nordby, last year. The dealership, along with Ram Trucks, Golden Plains Credit Union, AJ Graphics and American Implement, paid for the $30,000 truck, Dougherty said.
Roy Cessna, USD 457 public information coordinator, said in an email that the school partnered with the dealership to encourage kids to consistently come to school.
Dougherty said he wanted to incentivize attendance for a reason.
“I’ve had these rules of success that I’ve always tried to instill in (my kids), and the very first rule is show up. It seems like a minor thing, but the reality is that’s the first step to success —just showing up,” Dougherty said.
When the time came for the drawing, the dealership selected 10 names from the pot. Well, 11, Turrentine said. One girl’s name was drawn twice. The 11th name was his.
After the drawing, the 10 students picked one of 10 keys in the order they were drawn. If the student’s key turned in the ignition, the pickup was theirs. Turrentine and Legacy owner Jason Dougherty said one by one, the keys didn’t work.
“It was crazy,” Turrentine said. "My heart was pounding really quite fast. It felt like a hole burning through my stomach ... All the odds were against me.”
As the tension stretched, Dougherty started to feel a little concerned.
“It was kind of nerve-wracking…” Dougherty said, laughing. “I was getting a little nervous, thinking maybe I put 10 dummy keys in there instead of just nine.”
Then the last key, Turrentine’s, worked. He said as soon as the ninth person’s key failed, he knew he had won. He said he planned on keeping the pickup, though he will have to keep the wrap with advertisements for the contests’ sponsors on the exterior for six months.
“I want to thank the high school and Legacy for setting this event up. Mr. Nordby and the owner, Jason,” Turrentine said.
When Turrentine won, his mom posted a picture on Facebook, and calls started pouring in. He said his friends thought he was lying and were in disbelief, then immediately asked for rides. As for now, they may have to wait.
Turrentine, 15, still only has his learning permit.
Contact Amber Friend at firstname.lastname@example.org.