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Driven 2 Excel winner Jaleigha Graham, with the WKML team and Dean Russell from Fayetteville Kia.

“My name is Jaleigha Graham. I’m from Westover High School, and I just won a CAR!”

For 16-year-old Jaleigha Graham, her senior year at Westover High School is turning out to be quite nice. Already finishing high school a year early, Graham gained a whole new reason to celebrate Tuesday night at the Crown Arena, as she won a brand new 2019 Kia Soul, courtesy of Fayetteville Kia and Beasley Media Group.

Graham was selected out of over 650 high school seniors across Cumberland County Schools as the winner of the Driven 2 Excel program’s grand prize. To be eligible, students had to have a GPA higher than a 3.2 and had to have fewer than five absences over the year.

“I’m so excited. I’m graduating a year early and worked really hard,” Graham said with tears streaming down her face as she took the keys to her new ride.

Dr. Mary Black, the acting superintendent of Cumberland County Schools, drew Graham’s name out of all those who entered at the event.

Graham has plans to attend William Peace University in the fall, and will major in computer science. She hopes to pursue a career in I.T., but first will continue her basketball career at William Peace.

“I’m very proud of her, she’s worked really hard at keeping her grades up and graduating early,” Jaleigha’s mother Leigh Ann Gilluly said. “She’s done all this while playing sports, leading the SGA, doing ROTC, and playing sports. She does so much but she’s so driven. It’s so great to see that pay off.”

The Driven 2 Excel event is also sponsored by Fort Bragg Federal Credit Union. They award two other lucky students with scholarships of $3,000 and $2,000. Circle K also chipped in with some much-needed gas cards for several lucky students.

“This is such a great event for us, it’s really our favorite thing we get to do each year,” said Dean Russell of Fayetteville Kia. “We’re so thrilled to see such a great student winning this car. And it adds a little personal excitement for me, as my wife is a William Peace graduated. We’re thrilled for Jaleigha.”



Brandon Plotnick is a former sports journalist, now living in the digital space with interests all over the musical and pop culture map.