Yokota student wins $1,500 Exchange Gift Card for academic excellence

Yokota student wins $1,500 Exchange Gift Card for academic excellence

by Staff Sgt. Mark A. Kauffman
Army & Air Force Exchange Service Public Affairs

YOKOTA AIR BASE – Seventh-grader Bruce Birch studies hard, and his dedication to academic excellence paid off—literally.

The Yokota Middle School student took home the second-place prize—a $1,500 gift card—in the Army & Air Force Exchange Service’s You Made the Grade sweepstakes. Bruce received his prize at the Yokota Air Base Exchange during a presentation Feb. 10.  Bruce's dad, Daniel, is a retired Air Force Veteran, and his mom, Cynthia, is a teacher at a Department of Defense Education Activity school. They attended the presentation along with Col. Patrick Launey, 374th Mission Support group; Exchange General Manager Julia Woods and Store Manager Chad Davis.

The You Made the Grade program rewards students in first grade through 12th grades, including homeschooled students, who achieve at least a B average on their report cards with a $5 Exchange gift card. Students can enter the worldwide sweepstakes for a chance to win a $2,000, $1,500 or $500 Exchange gift card.

“I received the phone call about 2 a.m. because of the time difference between the U.S. and Japan,” said Bruce’s mother, Cynthia. “After they told me that he had won $1500, I couldn’t go back to sleep because I was so excited and happy for him.”

In the morning when she told Bruce that he had won the $1,500 Exchange gift card, he responded with “Is this a scam, Mom…are you joking?”

“When reality finally set in, he was extremely happy,” Cynthia said.

Bruce, a mostly straight A student, is self-motivated to get good grades because he thinks it is important.

“Bruce is a student who works hard for his grades and tries his best on all of his assignments,” said Cynthia. “More important, he wants screen time to play games on his computer. And with good grades comes that screen time.”

Like a typical middle school student, Bruce has an array of hobbies that include fishing, playing “Dungeons and Dragons” with his friends and playing with his two dogs, but he enjoys gaming on his computer the most.  With his new found riches, he plans on buying a 3D printer with all the accessories, more electronics and video games.

“I would like to thank the Exchange,” Cynthia said. “We are honored and proud to be recipients of this reward.”

Being a military child presents unique challenges that most civilian children do not experience. According to the Department of Defense Education Activity, military children switch schools an average of three times more often and move six to nine times during their school years.

“The Exchange realizes that military children also serve. They have to deal with frequent moves, school changes, making new friends and parent’s deployments,” Yokota Exchange General Manager Julia Woods said. “With our You Made the Grade program, we have an opportunity to reward and encourage all of our students to continue to reach for academic excellence.”

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