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High schoolers win used cars at Village Automotive dealers

Posted by Bill Griffith  May 24, 2011 05:27 PM

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Kelsey-O'Brien-Hyundai-Danvers-winner.jpg

(Dan Leahy/Village Automotive Group)

Danvers High School junior Kelsey O'Brien bursts with joy after winning a 2005 Hyundai Elantra.

The scene at Peabody High School's field house was one of anticipation. There was a big prize to be won on this afternoon, but despite the venue, it didn't involve athletics.

On Thursday, twenty students from Danvers and Peabody High got in facing lines. Each had a key in hand, a prize they'd won during the year-long "Keys to Success" program sponsored by local merchants and aimed at fostering student achievement, citizenship, and attendance.

One of those keys would start a 2005 red Hyundai Elantra donated by Village Automotive Group. General manager Tony Bartolotti of Hyundai Village of Danvers was there to make the presentation official.

A week earlier, at Honda Village of Newton Corner, 60 high school students from Brighton High, Jeremiah Burke, Madison Park, and Waltham took part in a similar final chance to win a car, this one a certified pre-owned Toyota Corolla.

Jean-Michel-Estime-Roxbury-winner.jpg

(Dan Leahy/Village Automotive Group)

Jean Michel Estime, of Roxbury, won a Toyota Corolla.

Each student had a chance. One after the other they tried their keys until only two were left. The 59th, Jean Michel Estime of Roxbury, a senior at Madison Park, tried his key and the Corolla started.

Jean, who immigrated to the United States from Haiti three years ago, was a two-time winner this year. He also was one of 11 students to win a 2011 Northeastern University Torch Scholarship for a summer immersion program and eight semesters of undergraduate study.

As excited as he was to win the car, he's giving it to his mom to drive.

Christine Caron, general manager of Honda Village, called the car giveaways "my favorite days of the year."

The suspense didn't last as long at Peabody. The eighth student to try a key — Danvers junior Kelsey O'Brien — was the winner. The look on her face as the key started the car was priceless.

As confetti showered the car, she grabbed the microphone from program coordinator Michelle Roselli. "I'm so excited. Thank you very much," O'Brien said.

O'Brien, a high school and F.C. Boston Azzurri soccer player who also runs track, earned her key by volunteering to help students in a special needs class.

Dan Leahy, general manager of Boston Volvo Village and Audi & Porsche of Norwell, is the in-house photographer for the awards.

"This is a great program and a great day," he said, "but the day I'll never forget was three years ago at Brighton. A young man won the car and called his dad and said, 'You can get a job now because you have a car to get to work.' It was one of those 'wow' moments when you realize how much a car can mean to a family and how many things a lot of us take for granted in life."

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
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