BUCKHANNON – West Virginia Governor Jim Justice and his pup Babydog stopped by Buckhannon-Upshur High School Thursday afternoon to congratulate three winners in the Do It for Baby Dog vaccination sweepstakes. In the latest drawings, three B-U students have been selected to receive four-year full-ride scholarships to any West Virginia public university or college.
Senior Lillian Keith was announced as a winner this week, joining previous winners Jacob Dodd and Benjamin Currence, both sophomores.
Justice welcomed the B-UHS students and complimented them for dressing up in preparation of their Homecoming Celebration.
“You do incredible stuff,” Justice said. “I have coached forever and I thought I had a pretty decent basketball team at Greenbrier East, and we came here and you beat the ever-loving dog fire out of us. What a great, great school you have.”
Justice said he and Babydog have traveled across the state rewarding residents who choose to protect themselves and others from COVID-19.
“Everyone in America is blessed with incredible stuff to have our freedoms, and our freedoms are dear to every one of us,” Justice said. “It makes us who we are in every way. I do not think as your Governor that I ought to tell you anything you have to do … But I will tell you from the bottom of my heart and the bottom of Babydog’s heart, truly you should [get vaccinated] because we do not know what is coming.”
The governor said the long-term effects of the virus remain unknown.
“The medical team tells me you could get this and not even know it, but maybe at some point in your lives the side effects of the virus could come back and haunt you like you cannot imagine,” he warned.
The risk of taking the COVID-19 vaccine is almost zero, Justice told students.
“They are so safe, they are off the chart,” Justice said. “Here is the bottom line: the more people who are vaccinated, the less people who will die.”
Justice said it was hard to read the 74 names of West Virginians who passed away COVID-19 in the past two days.
“It’s not any fun, and I mean it when I tell you, ‘I love you,’” Justice said. “We really need you to get vaccinated. We have a kid here and his name is Benjamin Currence – he just won a scholarship a week ago.”
Justice explained the W.Va. Lottery Commission draws the winners out of a hat.
Lillian Keith is the daughter of Heidi Thompson and Philip Keith of Buckhannon. She said she was very excited to be announced as a winner and admitted she was also a bit nervous. Lilian is unsure what her future plans following graduation will entail, but said she was very grateful to receive the scholarship.
Jacob Dodd is the son of Shelly Feronti of Buckhannon and Freddy Dodd of Salem. Jacob is still deciding what he wants to do in the future as far as a career goal, but he said the scholarship is life-changing. When he registered for the Do It For Babydog lottery, he said he never dreamed he would win.
Dr. Sara Lewis Stankus, superintendent of Upshur County Schools, thanked Justice for his commitment to the vaccinations and the safety of individuals in the state.
“We are grateful Governor Justice is taking time from his very busy schedule to personally deliver the scholarships to our students in Upshur County,” Stankus said. “Having three scholarship winners at Buckhannon-Upshur High School is beyond our imagination. What a blessing to the families and the students!”
Stankus noted that while everyone appreciated the governor visiting the school, Babydog was the superstar of the day.
“Thanks again to our governor for his personal touch,” Stankus said. “It is an amazing day for Upshur County.”
Dr. Tammy Samples, president of the Upshur County Board of Education, said the scholarships will be life-changing for the kids and their families.
“There is no limit – no limit,” Samples said. “This will open avenues for them. They may want to go to a state school, and this will open so many doors for them, or for a dream college that may have been out of reach otherwise. It is incredible.”
Jonathan Pollock, principal of Buckhannon-Upshur High School, echoed those sentiments.
“Not only did we get to honor one student, but we got to honor two more,” Pollock said. “This is just amazing and we appreciate Governor Justice visiting our school. This is incredible.”
When asked for her comments about the vaccination lottery and the winners from Buckhannon-Upshur High School, Babydog smiled and gave a resounding ‘woof.’