Pirates ride with pride

January 31, 2023

Some of the students in the running for winning the car include, left to right: Kelsey Copenhaver, Brynn Russell, Lauren Pretty, Harriet Kidder, Ty Schlukebir, Robin Walton, Connor Riker, Gideon VanderKooi, Nora Chickering, Aiden Coker, Mia Perea, Eric Hannan, Clayton Riley, Adan Cruz, with HHS Principal Troy Moran, Det. Sgt. Kevin Skipski of the Hart Police Department and Hart Police Chief Juan Salazar.

Pirates ride with pride

Good behavior puts students in the running for winning a car

Pirate News is a presentation of Hart Public Schools in partnership with Oceana County Press. 

By Allison Scarbrough, Editor

HART — Over 200 Hart High School students have signed a pledge to abstain from unhealthy and unsafe behaviors, like drinking alcohol, using drugs, drinking and driving and distracted driving, to not only make safe and healthy lifestyle decisions but to also get a chance to win a car.

A 2011 Ford Fiesta valued at $7,000 will be awarded to a lucky student at the end of the school year.

The high school rolled out the Ride with Pirate Pride program during an assembly, Jan. 23, when students made the pledge “to practice safe and responsible behaviors within the school and outside of the school,” said Principal Troy Moran. 

The winner of the car generously donated by John Heykoop of Eagle Towing will be drawn, May 5. “John went a step further and paid all the taxes and registration,” said Moran. Steve’s Auto & Truck of Hart donated over $1,000 worth of detailing work to spruce up the ride, said Det. Sgt. Kevin Skipski of the Hart Police Department, who becomes the school’s resource officer next school year. Skipski chipped in his own money for detailing, too. Mileage on the car is 200,000, he said.

Participating students will also have the chance to win several other prizes donated by local businesses. “We have lots of community members who have already donated, but we’re looking for more,” said Moran.

Moran said the program is modeled after the Muskegon County program, which he was involved in when he was principal at Montague High School. After taking the job in Hart, the principal soon connected with Det. Sgt. Skipski, to get the program moving in Hart.

“We started talking about this program about a year and a half ago,” said Skipski. “We started putting our heads together to look for cars.” At the time, used cars were scarce due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “We were just batting zero, but we never gave up on it.” 

Skipski decided to start calling local wrecker services and connected with Heykoop. “He was extremely excited, and said, ‘I’ll give you a car.’”

The enthusiasm is catching on, and other businesses are donating services and products. “Everybody has been very gracious,” said Skipski.

“It’s a great opportunity for the school to connect with the community; the community to connect with the school; and the school to connect with law enforcement,” said Moran. “The three entities are working together to build better people.

“We really want to celebrate the students who are doing what we ask them to do — not only in the school but outside in the community. The program not only incentivizes students to do the right thing, but also rewards students who are already doing the right thing.”

There are 15 positive behaviors that the students are pledging to maintain. Those who abide by their promise will be put into a drawing to select 10 finalists. Finalists will receive a key, May 1. “If the key opens up the car, the car is theirs.”

Students who do not have a graduated driver’s license will be eligible to win a non-motorized form of transportation — a kayak donated by Water Dog Outfitters in Montague. “Anybody who isn’t old enough goes into the drawing for the kayak,” said Moran.

The plan is to continue the Ride with Pride program annually.

“All the community people coming together to make this thing happen has been pretty amazing,” said Skipski.

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