Hart High School student awarded free car thanks to late principal’s legacy 

May 7, 2024

Hart High School student Ty Schlukebir stands next to his new car donated by Eagle Towing and Jerry’s Towing. Pictured with Ty are John Heykoop of Eagle Towing and Keith Baker of Jerry’s Towing. – Contributed photo

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

By Allison Scarbrough, News Editor

HART — As Hart High School students and staff continue to mourn the loss of their beloved principal Troy Moran who died unexpectedly of a heart attack April 27, they gathered at the football field Monday May 6 to award a free car to a student thanks to the program Moran enthusiastically launched. 

Moran started the program at Hart after he was hired as principal in 2021. Students sign 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 also for a chance to win the car.

Ten finalists select a key fob, and the student who picks the key that starts the car gets to keep the car. This year, junior Ty Schlukebir was the lucky winner who got to drive away with the 2017 Ford Fusion generously donated by Eagle Towing and Jerry’s Towing.

– Contributed photo

Moran modeled the Ride with Pride program after the one he established at Montague High School when he was principal there. After taking the job in Hart, the principal soon connected with Hart Police Department Det. Sgt. Kevin Skipski, to get the program moving in Hart.

“Kevin Skipski and I are going to make sure we keep it going in memory of him,” said Eagle Towing owner John Heykoop. “He’s the one who started it. He was one of the nicest guys I’ve ever dealt with, and he was just so in to it.”

Heykoop had a special license plate made for the car in Moran’s memory.

“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 in 2023. “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.”

Skipski, who is the school resource officer, said Monday was an emotional day for the students. “It was pretty gut wrenching. The kids definitely miss him. I think it’s a tribute to what kind of principal he was. The kids just loved him — they flocked around him. They couldn’t wait until he walked down the hallway.”

Troy Moran addresses the Hart High School student body during the 2023 Ride with Pride assembly. -OCP file photo

Skipski plans to rename the program in the principal’s memory — the Troy Moran Ride with Pirate Pride. “It will always be a tribute to him.” 

The officer said Moran’s passion and enthusiasm were contagious. “I think the kids just fed off that; the teachers fed off it; I fed off it. You would come in the morning dragging, and all of sudden he’s popping down the hallway in his typical self, and you couldn’t help but change your whole mood and personality to match his.”

Because Moran also started the program at Montague High School, Skipski said the Montague Police Department provided many high quality items for Hart High School’s prizes, including a TV. “Not only do we give the car away, but we also give out some really cool prizes. All the (top 10) kids that didn’t win the car, we pull their name out.” Several other area businesses and organizations also got involved by donating prizes.

“We want to keep it going and make it bigger and better next year.” said Heykoop. “They all loved him at that school.”

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