The Patriot Auto Group is teaming up with The Shawnee News-Star to recognize the area's best student.

The Patriot Auto Group is teaming up with The Shawnee News-Star to recognize the area’s best student.

Through a unique Student of the Year program, Patriot Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge-Ram will award a new Jeep Renegade to a student from one of 11 participating high schools in the area.

“The main goal in giving away a new car like this is to encourage students to do more and try harder,” Patriot Auto Group Dealer Tatton Manning said. “We hope students see this as an opportunity and they work harder in the classroom and in their communities.”

Manning said he and his managing partner Seth Knighton selected Chandler as a location for their new dealership in February primarily because it feels like home to them. After meeting in middle school, Manning and Knighton were friends throughout college.

Manning said Knighton drove a car in college with more than 200,000 miles on it and he had to work and save up money just to buy a car that had more than 100,000 miles on it when he was in school.

“Both of us would have given anything for an opportunity like this,” Manning said. “That’s one big reason we like to participate in this kind of program.”

During the school year, two students of the month will be selected by an impartial panel of judges based off of nominations from administrators at the school.  Those 16 students will be finalists to win the Patriot Student of the Year award and drive home in a new car after the May 7, 2018 News-Star Best of Preps banquet at Firelake Arena.

Each month administrators at area high schools will submit a nomination for a senior who has an excellent grade point average, displays community leadership qualities, is an active volunteer and displays high moral integrity.

The Students of the Month will be selected by judges including Dr. Michael Scaperlanda, President of St. Gregory’s University, Linda Capps, Vice-Chairman of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation and Josh Trimble, Director of Development at Oklahoma Baptist University.

This program is part of the Patriot commitment to being a good community partner where their dealerships are located.

Soon after their Feb. 15, 2017 opening in Chandler, the dealership was sponsoring livestock auctions in Lincoln County and sports teams in the area.

“Our high school would really have benefitted from a business doing that for us,” Knighton said. “We want to do that for kids in the communities where we do business.”

Manning said it was important to them for people to see them in the community and know them before stepping on the showroom floor.

“We don’t want the first time we meet someone to be when they show up at the dealership to buy a car,” Manning said. “We are real people with real families just like them. We want to show people that we give back to the community.”

Knighton said to him being a part of the community was the most important thing they can do.

“Without the people in this community, we wouldn’t be here,” Knighton said. “When we see a chance to help do something, we want to take it.”

One of those chances to help came earlier this year when the Lincoln County Sheriff’s office was short a vehicle.

Patriot heard of the need and quickly responded to give the Sheriff’s Department a new pickup to get them back to a full fleet.

Manning and Knighton are proud to sponsor this award especially because it honors students who are like they were in high school. Both men were good students and active in their schools and communities. Both were also the first in their families to go to college. A program like this would have meant a lot to either of them.

Both also insist in the inclusion of high moral integrity and character as part of the selection criteria.

“You can have all the talent in the world, but without morals and ethics, you won’t get far,” Manning said. “If you can’t be trusted, your talent doesn’t really mean that much.”

The first winners of the Student of the Month contest will be announced next week. Additional sponsors of the program include First National Bank and Trust and the Citizen Potawatomi Nation.