Pasco's Chiawana High students win $25,000

November 26, 2013 

— Marketing students at Chiawana High School in Pasco will be able to do more to encourage safe driving at their school thanks to a $25,000 grant from insurance company State Farm.

The students were surprised with the check Tuesday after being told they had to have a last-minute meeting with Principal John Wallwork. Instead they walked into a room full of district and State Farm officials, parents and state Rep. Susan Fagan, R-Pullman.

“I told you, you were up to something! You are such a liar!” Haley McLaughlin, a senior and president of Chiawana’s DECA marketing club, joked with a teacher. The students won the money as part of insurance company’s Celebrate My Drive competition. Officials lauded the students for their efforts to raise awareness for safe driving and dedication to win the award for their school.

“They moved mountains. They worked so hard to get the community buy-in,” said Vladimir Krinitsyn, a Pasco State Farm agent who presented the check along with fellow agent Scott Sintay.

The contest was aimed at encouraging safe driving by promoting good driving habits such as driving sober, not using cellphones while behind the wheel and being alert.

The top 50 schools to get the most people in their community to sign a pledge to drive safely were eligible for $25,000 prizes, while the top school overall got $100,000 and a concert with Kelly Clarkson.

Chiawana collected more than 20,000 pledges and was reportedly the only school in Washington to place in the top 50.

Haley, who also helped coordinate the project as part of her senior project, said she and her club members spent a lot of time getting out word about the contest by holding drawings, competitions during lunch hour and reaching out to other Pasco schools to get involved.

“We were staying up until the early hours of the morning pledging people,” she said.

Much of the money will go toward the club’s safe driving efforts, such as the “Every 15 Minutes” campaign that warns of the toll of drunk driving. The club will also use the money for students to attend DECA conferences and events.

The club had received much smaller grants from State Farm for their efforts for the past six years but Leslie Bell, one of Chiawana’s marketing teachers, encouraged the students to try for something bigger.

“This team of DECA officers, led by Haley, is phenomenal,” Bell said.

The club will also use part of the money to hold a school wide celebration in recognition of winning the contest.

“We need to plan that, it’s going to be a surprise,” Bell said.

*Ty Beaver: 582-1402; tbeaver@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @_tybeaver

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