There was a catch, which is written in the name, and Sparks High students have become accustomed to reading numerous books and passing cumulative tests on them to better their chances of having their name drawn from the ticket tumbler.
Now in its 15th year, the Read for the Ride program is McClelland’s crown jewel at the school she retired from. She said returning to the ‘The Brickhouse’ in front of a full crowd of students, like the one on Thursday afternoon, reminds her why she keeps the program going.
“They were all there. They were all excited and they cheered with their fellow students and were happy for them,” McClelland said. “Those moments of camaraderie among the students are very rare to see in other schools. They truly love each other on many levels.”
McClelland handed out several iPods, an iPad mini, a laptop and many other prizes for students with exceeding reading statistics. An estimated 2,500 tickets whirled through the transparent case before two winners were chosen for the cars.
Rugelio Uriante Murillo, a 16-year-old junior, won the car donated by the City of Sparks and slapped five with Sparks Mayor Geno Martini, who drew the ticket. Murillo was shocked as he descended from the bleachers and an ear-to-ear smile took over once he made his way to midcourt.
“I really didn’t believe it,” Murillo said. “Now I am going to get my license instead of my little permit.”
Car number two went to sophomore Maya Delgado who read close to 50 books to earn her tickets. Delgado said she enjoys reading, which is why she volunteers at the Reno Library in her spare time. Now she is happy to have a car to earn her license in.
“I only have my permit right now,” Delgado said. “Now I am excited to have something of my own to drive.”
McClelland was adamant that sole credit could not be given for Read for the Ride. Local companies including Reno Brake, Sierra Nevada Body and Frame, Nevada Auto Sound and Sam’s Sparkle Shop donated parts, accessories and labor. One car was donated by a teacher at Sparks High and McClelland’s close friend Dwayne Brunson also ensures the cars are in fine working order before the students climb in them.
“Every year these people, time and time again, freely give their parts, labor and love to put this program together,” McClelland said. “It helps bring this community together. It really helps get a community spirit and generosity going because of this program in small ways, but it is very refreshing to see.”
This was the first year Read for the Ride was able to give away two cars for students, but it won’t be the last as the City of Sparks has agreed to donate a car each year. Though the screaming students inside the gym on ticket-drawing day were only thinking about the cars, the program’s original and deepest moral lies between the pages.
“I love kids and I love their positive attitude despite many of their struggles. I just want to be there for them in some way if I can,” McClelland said. “The reading itself is a huge reward for them whether they recognize that or not. If they have a ride and fit in with the rest of kids, then I think that is a good thing, especially if they earn it through reading.”
McClelland cited her “passion for reading” and aiding in a successful future for her former students as the reason for keeping the program going so long. Nowadays, McClelland doesn’t spend as much time as she used to at Sparks High, but her roots are deep enough to keep referring to the students as “my kids.”
“The big message is this is something they can, and have done, for themselves,” she said. “It really is a direct link to whatever future they plan for themselves. A lot of kids just think they aren’t really worried about the future, but a lot of books can help broaden that perspective, and I want to them realize that.
“This program is something that helps them say, ‘The reading you have been doing will make you a life-long learner and you can do whatever you want to do.’”