Two Clay County fifth-graders received special news Thursday.
Jackson Township Elementary student Marcus Duregger and Clay City Elementary student Raven Allender were both noticeably surprised when it was announced their posters were selected as winners for the two regions in the county.
"No way," Duregger said when Clay County Health Department Community Health Educator Linda Messmer announced his name.
Allender had much of the same reaction.
"Very cool," she said with a huge smile.
In January, Messmer went to every fifth-grade class in the Clay Community School Corporation, including Cornerstone Christian Academy, and gave a presentation about the dangers and risks with tobacco use. At the end of the presentation she handed out posters and every student was given the option to design their own billboard, then a panel of judges decided the winners of each school and the two top winners for the county.
"The winners were chosen by judges on Jan. 22, and the results were to be announced on Jan. 29," Messmer said. "However, due to snow, illness and I-STEP+ testing the announcement was delayed."
Every student who turned in a poster received a jump rope and each school winner received a T-shirt with a picture of his or her poster on it and a $20 gift certificate to Wal-Mart.
Judges for the contest were County Commissioners Paul Sinders, Jack Withers and Charlie Brown, County Councilwoman Rita Rothrock, City Councilman Bill Lovett who sat in for Mayor Ann Bradshaw, Community Theater Artist Julia Kapke and County Health Officer Dr. Rahiem Farid.
County Health Officer Diane Dierks, Rothrock, Kapke and Farid were present for both award presentations and Bradshaw was present for Duregger's.
"It is a great program and it really gets the students involved," Jackson Township Elementary fifth-grade teacher Christina Rea said.
Clay City Elementary fifth-grade teacher Carol Morris echoed her.
"I think what the students remember the most is the green goo," she said.
By targeting the youth, Messmer hopes to deter and prevent them from using any type of tobacco product.
"I love interacting with the kids," she said. "They are old enough to know what is going on but young enough to be honest about it."
The following is a list of individual winners at each school for the Clay County Health Department Billboard contest:
* Meridian -- Hannah Jackson,
* Van Buren -- Cheyenne Foster,
* Staunton -- Lucy France,
* Forest Park -- Megan Miller,
* East Side -- Jaycee Fugate, and
* Cornerstone -- Amanda Watler