BY ETHAN FORMAN
---- — DANVERS — When Danvers High sophomore James English put the key in the ignition of a 2001 Honda Civic as part of a car giveaway contest held in Deering Stadium yesterday, the key wouldn’t work.
So, he stuffed his key back in its envelope and dropped it in a box on the passenger seat, allowing another student to try.
But after all 50 students failed to start the car, supplied by the Village Automotive Group and its Keys to Success Program, a new round of the “key off” began.
This time English, 16, managed to start the car. English, who doesn’t have his license yet, became the latest winner in this annual contest that rewards students who improve their grades, have strong attendance, get involved with the arts, tutor or volunteer. A similar event was held recently at Peabody High.
“I had a feeling it was going to go to Round 2,” said English, who said his first key went in but didn’t turn. His math teacher, Denise Yelle, gave him the key card that allowed him to enter the contest.
Raymond Ciccolo, president of the Village Automotive Group, which has Hyundai and Volvo dealerships in Danvers, said the program is meant to motivate kids who may be struggling in school. Students receive key cards from teachers who recognize improvement.
“The teachers love it because it gives them some opportunity to effectuate better behavior or whatever they are trying to promote,” Ciccolo said. Students also get gift certificates for getting a key card, so everyone wins something.
“It’s the best program in the entire school,” said Assistant Principal Mark Strout, who said kids can get key cards for a variety of reasons, including acts of kindness. About 104 were passed out this year, and 50 students were picked for yesterday’s Key Off.
Senior Dallas Masters won a $1,000 scholarship to attend Salem State University in the fall.
“I think it’s amazing,” she said of the Key Off. “It’s a chance to get everyone together. ... Even if you don’t win, you still get to bond with everyone and have fun.”
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.