Perfect attendance earns Sullivan students race tickets

Rick Wagner • Mar 20, 2009 at 12:00 AM

BRISTOL, Tenn. — Long perfect attendance records by four Sullivan County students have resulted in them receiving free tickets to a race at NASCAR’s fastest half mile.

Thanks to the generosity of a Michigan architect and her educator husband and a plan by Sullivan County school officials, four local students with eight- or nine-year perfect attendance records are attending this weekend’s NASCAR races at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Sullivan County Director of Schools Jack Barnes said the couple in Michigan contacted his office — first by e-mail, then by phone — about donating four season tickets to the Saturday and Sunday races since they were unable to use them this year.

“They just couldn’t make it and chose us,” Barnes said.

Lib Sells, supervisor of student services, came up with the idea of giving the tickets to middle school and high students with the longest consecutive records of perfect attendance over the years.

“Normally, these kids just get certificates,” Sells said.

The Owosso, Mich., couple who donated the tickets — architect Dian Wilson and her husband, elementary school guidance counselor Patrick Wilson — will receive photos of the winning students and a summary of how they were chosen.

Since no student had perfect attendance since kindergarten, Sells decided to make the award for students with the most consecutive years of perfect attendance.

Eighth-graders Thomas McNew of Blountville Middle School and Ray Brown of Holston Valley Middle School each received two tickets to Saturday’s Nationwide series race, the Scotts Turf Builder 300.

McNew has nine consecutive years of perfect attendance, and Brown has eight years.

At the high school level, seniors Bryanna Cole of Sullivan Central and Julia Wright of Sullivan East each received two tickets to Sunday’s Sprint Cup race, the Food City 500. They both have nine consecutive years of perfect attendance.

Sells said BMS already gives tickets to the Nationwide race each year to students at East who have perfect attendance through the third nine weeks of each school year.

East students attended classes at BMS for about nine weeks starting in October 2002 after mold remediation forced temporary closure of the East campus.

Giving tickets to all with perfect attendance at the county’s four high schools each year was just too expensive for the track, Sells said. She said future rewards for perfect attendance would depend on availability of tickets.

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