Area high school students have been given added incentive to be in school every day this year - the chance to win a vehicle.

“Attendance is the Key” is a project initiated by school social workers to increase school attendance.

It is sponsored by Partners for Ottawa County Youth.

The school-based social workers include Joyce Parmley, Beth Rotman, Candace Hayward, Peyton Westmorland and Denise Ruppert.

Students in Miami, Commerce, Picher-Cardin and Quapaw High Schools signed pledges at the beginning of the school year to attend class every day of the semester. They will be asked to do the same thing at the beginning of the next semester.

Those who are able to keep their pledge will be given a key.

At the close of the school year, the students from the four schools who have keys will gather for a celebration and get to try their keys out on the pick-up.

The student whose key opens the pick-up will get to keep the truck.

One key will open the truck.

Rules for the program include that it's only open to high school students and that perfect attendance means no absences or tardies.

“The only absences allowed are for those related to school activities, like going to a competition or something,” Rotman said.

Last year, one Ottawa County High School had only five students without any absences.

“There was a male student who missed school on the last day just so he wouldn't be included in the non-absence kids because it would be embarrassing,” Rotman said. “We heard someone mention the key program at a workshop as a positive way to encourage attendance.”

For an idea of how bad absenteeism is last semester, 55 percent of the students at one of the Ottawa County High Schools were absent all, or, part of a day 10 or more times. The absences were not related to school activities.

Area businesses have jumped right in to help with the project.

Quad States is donating a 1991 Chevrolet pick-up. Joe Ruppert of Ruppert's Tire and Auto is coordinating the customization of the vehicle. Crawford's Auto Shine has committed to paint the truck and Newell Coach has committed to do the re-upholstering. Parts will be donated by AutoZone, O'Reilly Auto Parts and Tint ‘N More which will also do the tinting on the vehicle.

Those willing to make a donation the project may call any of the school-based social workers at the Department of Human Services, 541-2400.