MANCHESTER — Eunice Adekoya thought one thing when her key was the one of 11 that started the new car, making her the winner of the AutoFair Make the Grade Giveaway Friday night before the start of the New Hampshire Fisher Cats game.
“I was like, 'Oh my goodness, this is not happening right now,'” the Manchester West High School senior said after winning the car and having her picture taken by, and with, Mayor Ted Gatsas.
As she sat beaming in her new 2012 Hyundai Accent, she handed her phone to Gatsas, who obliged by taking several photos.
Eleven area high school students were the finalists in the contest, which was held near home plate at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium. Each was given a key, but it was Adekoya, who was ninth in line, who heard the engine turn over.
“Excuse me ma'am, could you please move your car off the field?” Rick Brenner, president and general manager of the Fisher Cats, jokingly told her as she sat in the driver's seat.
“I wish I was still in high school so I could have a shot at it,” Brenner said. “I think it's a really nice thing.”
Andy Crews, president and CEO of AutoFair, said he thought the giveaway, which is in its second year, would inspire high school students to aspire to honors programs. Only students who made the honor roll, high honors or principals list in at least one quarter of the current academic year were eligible.
“I think for most kids who are 17 or 18, (the car is) something that they can actually hold onto and give them some drive,” Crews said.
“It is a great public/private partnership, and it gave the opportunity for some child in one of the high schools to win a car,” Gatsas said.
Superintendent of Schools Thomas Brennan said the schools plan to integrate the car giveaway program into future marketing classes to see if the schools can generate more interest — and higher grades — from students.
“This is just one of the most exciting things I've ever been involved with,” Brennan said. “Some kids actually dedicated themselves in the hopes that they would be able to get a car and help their families out.”
As an added bonus, Adekoya got to throw out the first pitch of the game. The first place she said she planned to drive the car: “Home!”
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Tim Buckland may be reached at email@example.com.