Joua Lee, who won $20,000 on Friday toward the purchase of a car, is eager to buy, but first things first:
"I have to get my driver's license," said the lucky Valley High School senior.
Each year, dealers at the Elk Grove Auto Mall give a car to a deserving student. Ten finalists with regular school attendance and qualifying grade-point averages from Elk Grove Unified School District high schools compete.
The finalists each randomly select a key to one of 10 cars. When the finalists attempt to turn the keys, only one car will start.
This year, the car Lee was in started right up. The nine runners-up each received a $100 Visa gift card.
"We had to wait until they told us to turn on the engines," said Lee of her morning at the auto mall that was witnessed by her sister and father.
"It started, and I looked at the principal, Ms. (Chelsea) Bowler. She screamed, 'You win!' Oh, my god, I really did. I was happy. Very exciting."
Lee, 17, has a 3.8 grade- point average and perfect attendance her senior year. Her family came to the United States from Laos in 2006.
She's thinking about getting a blue car, perhaps a Honda Accord. She plans to use the car to go to Sacramento City College and drive to a part-time job.
Her dreams are to be a veterinarian and buy her parents a house. Lee, one of seven children, has never won a prize.
The auto giveaway effort is part of the school district's effort to promote school attendance by seniors. Tom Dickinson, Valley High School's vice principal, said regular attendance helps in two ways.
Districts are funded in part by money they get from the state based on students' average daily attendance.
When students play hooky, it can take a bite out of already limited school budgets.
Additionally, students lose out when they don't attend, falling behind in their learning, Dickinson said.
Call The Bee's Bill Lindelof, (916) 321-1079. Follow him on Twitter @Lindelofnews.