Tyler Takeda/The Madera Tribune
Madera South graduate Mati Betancourth shows off the keys to a Saturn she won at Madera South’s Sober Graduation celebration. With Betancourth are senior class advisors Laura Garibay and Chris Christiansen. Along with the car, donated by GT Auto, the senior class spent more than $9,000 on gifts. Betancourth was going to be in the market in the summer for a car to take her to Fresno State in the fall.
For the past four Madera South High School graduations, car dealership/repair shop GT Auto has donated a car to the school’s sober graduation celebration.
The shop will donate a car this year, signifying its fifth year of donating to Madera South.
The shop originally started its giving with Liberty High School, but moved to Madera South in 2013.
“We do that to keep our kids safe that night,” co-owner Janie Grizzell said in 2014. “They have someplace to have a good time to celebrate their graduation.” “It’s a good program and we like it,” co-owner Tim Grizzell said in a 2014 Madera Tribune story. “We don’t do it because they ask us. We do it because it’s a great program to leave kids locked up and unable to get hurt. We went to school here, our kids went to school here, all of our employees have gone to school here and one of them coaches at a school, so it’s important for us to be involved.”
The winners of the car receive a two-year warranty. GT Auto also pays the sales tax and the registration.
“They come in here and don’t pay a dime,” Tim said. “They come in, sign papers and walk out of here.”
2013 Madera South graduate Mati Betancourt was the first winner of the GT Auto car. At the time, she didn’t have a car and needed one to attend Fresno State.
Four years later, Betancourt is in her fourth year at Fresno State, majoring in liberal studies. She eventually wants to be an elementary school teacher.
“It’s still in the family,” Betancourt said of the car. “It lasted me a good three years driving back and forth to Fresno State from home.”
Betancourt gave the car to her brother to drive around Madera.
“The car still drives good,” Betancourt said. “I liked the car. I’m easily pleased, so having a car, in general, was great for me.”
At the time, Betancourt and her family was thinking of buying a cheap car to get her back and forth to Fresno State, but winning the car at Madera South took care of that option.
“It really helped the family out because we didn’t have one,” she said.
Other winners of the car were Taylor Orlando (2014), Leslie Bravo (2015) and Michelle Hernandez (2016). Hernandez didn’t even have a driver’s license prior to winning the car.
“We feel it’s a good program,” Janie said. “We’re committed to it. We’ve done it for five years. We want the community to know that we’re behind the program. The whole community is behind it. We just do it because it’s the right thing to do.”
“It’s an important program for us,” Tim said. “We’re 100 percent behind sober grad.”