OUTLOOK — There were 191 elementary school students, who met the “Attendance Matters” challenge.

They wheeled home brand new bicycles after cheering on campus administrators, who made good on their pledge to kiss the “Porky,” a black and white piglet serving as the campaign’s unofficial mascot during a celebratory assembly last Wednesday, June 12.

“We realized early on that this was a monumental and unprecedented gesture that we would award all students that had perfect-perfect attendance in the fourth quarter,” Principal Maria Hernandez stated as she thanked their business partner Yakima Chief Hops (YCH) for making the event possible.

“This was for the last 44 days of the year — the last quarter of the year that the kids earned the bike and helmet.”

Hernandez noted 42 percent of the school’s overall annual absences occur in the fourth quarter.

Two and one-half days of instructional time was lost during that period when end of the year tests and evaluations are administered.

Officials recognized the importance of an incentive program that would make an immediate impact to curb that striking number.

“For us, every day, every minute counts,” the principal expressed.

There are 24 students who have attained perfect attendance throughout the entire year. They will be additionally recognized and given a drawstring backpack with school supplies.

Assistant Principal Rick Puente took point in developing the “See You in the Morning” campaign, which consisted of a collaborative team effort involving business leaders, parents and students.

After learning about the school’s intentions of seeking out a community partner, Steve Carpenter, YCH Chief Supply Officer and a former Sunnyside School District board member, who has grandchildren that attend Outlook Elementary, expressed an interest in helping to pedal forward the cause.

“We believe in our community, and we believe in supporting local schools. Kids are the future of our community,” he stated during his congratulatory remarks.

The corporate neighbor sought to positively impact area youth by providing attendance-based rewards with six schools, five in Yakima and a pilot program in Sunnyside.

The grower-owned global supplier not only donated the mountain bikes, but they assembled and delivered them in time for the afterschool event.

Administrators and YCH leaders believed that students should be presented with their awards to make a lasting impression.

First through third grade girls and boys were provided with age appropriate periwinkle and grey colored Roadmaster models, while fourth through fifth graders received white and black ones. About 38 percent of the school’s 500 students were awarded new bicycles.

“Based on the success we saw at Outlook, we think we’re on the right track,” Carpenter acknowledged.

Patrick Shelby can be contacted at 509-837-4500, ext. 110 or email PShelby@SunnysideSun.com

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