N.C. Jeweler Gives Away Car to Help Seniors Stay in School

Best known for his famous Christmas Day snowfall event last year, the owner of Perry’s Emporium in Wilmington, N.C., is making headlines again with his latest giveaway to motivate high school seniors to stay in school: a car.

Each day 4 million children miss school, 1 million drop out, and 160,000 kids stay home from school out of fear. If this trend keeps up, roughly 75 percent of today’s students entering high school will not complete a college degree, according to recent data from the Freshman Transition Initiative (FTI) of George Washington University.

Concerned with this national problem, Alan Perry didn’t have to go far to come up with the idea to give a high school senior a car to motivate at-risk high school students: his daughter, who is a first-grade teacher.

“The kids doing B work or better will continue to stay in school: there’s less of a problem of smart kids getting bored,” says Perry. “The kids getting Ds and Fs are the ones who need motivation, to stay in school and work at averaging Cs so they don’t drop out all together and work in a minimum-wage job, with some never even completing their GED.” 

Perry’s stay-in-school contest is open to seniors from 11 high schools in three counties in his Wilmington market. Perry put the word out in early August. So far, 150 high school seniors have signed pledge cards in the store. Registered high school seniors get a postcard to show they’ve signed the Perry’s pledge, with some getting a discount card of 10 percent off a future purchase.

Currently TV, radio, and print ads are running to attract more teens to the contest before the mid-September deadline. Perry is also using direct mailer type postcards in the schools. On one side of the post card is information on the contest and how to get involved, while on the other side there’s a coupon for 10 percent off on any purchase. 

Although most seniors would be glad to win any car at all, Perry plans on purchasing a new KIA, Hyundai, or Nissan, which typically sell new cars for under $20,000. Of the three makes, Perry’s early favorite is the Nissan Cube. Similar to KIA’s Soul hamster TV commercials, Nissan’s Cube commercials are aimed squarely at younger drivers, positioning their boxy car to be a hip way to get around town.

When Perry makes a final car-buying decision next spring, he plans to park the new vehicle outside the store to draw added attention to the contest. “This should help get the attention of people in market as well as reporters from TV stations and newspapers,” says Perry.  

Students that have signed the pledge cards in September will be contacted to bring their transcripts and school attendance records to the store next May. Upon verification, top runners up will be decided for college-friendly gifts such as a personal computer and an iPad, as well as the grand prize of the car.

Although Perry is approaching this contest with the best of intentions—and with the hopes of attracting future bridal customers while generating a little publicity—he has drawn some criticism within his market.

“Ninety-nine percent of the response has been positive,” says Perry. “Only a very small number of people have said that I’m selling the kids short, or I’m making the contest too easy. Lots and lots of customers have contacted me to say thanks for doing something, anything, to help kids stay in school.”

Perry is known in his market for a number of community outreach efforts. And if all goes according to plan next spring, this car-giveaway incentive to keep seniors in school will become an annual event. 

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