2nd-grader Emma Potter wins statewide reading award: tickets to Iron Bowl


West Elementary second-grader Emma Potter, with her family, after winning tickets to this year’s Iron Bowl / Nick Griffin

CULLMAN – A second-grade Auburn fan received a special surprise Friday afternoon at West Elementary: tickets to next week’s Iron Bowl. Emma Potter received the tickets from the Alabama Education Association (AEA). She was chosen out of more than 37,000 qualifying students in the AEA’s “Be a Champion and Read” contest.  Not only did Potter receive the tickets, but also passes for the sideline and pre-game activities for herself and two guests.

The AEA has sponsored the competition for the last five years to promote reading in Alabama schools. In order to qualify, students had to read six or more books before the deadline and get their paperwork into the AEA in time for the drawing. The students, from kindergarten through sixth grade, chose their favorite team, either Alabama or Auburn, as part of their entries. Two students from the entire state won. One for Alabama, and one for Auburn.

The second-grade class was brought into the gym at 1:30 p.m. Friday for the announcement. Potter had no idea she was about to win and was shocked when she heard the good news. Her parents, Barry and Dori Potter, were there to celebrate with their daughter. Barry Potter was very proud of his daughter’s accomplishment and the way she earned it.

“I’m very proud. I’m proud of the school, the teachers and they really push the kids to excel,” he said. “I’m very happy with our city school system and thankful to the AEA for giving her the opportunity to win these tickets.”

Barry Potter said he is also excited to share the Iron Bowl atmosphere with his family next week and have a good time on the plains.

“We’ll do Tiger Walk, we’ll do some tailgating but really just enjoying being there. We’ve been to Auburn before but not for a game, so we’ll make sure to do just about everything,” he shared.

Emma’s mother, Dori Potter, felt the same way as her husband about the positive motivation behind the prize and was happy to see their school take part in the contest.

“We love our school and we’re thrilled with the win. The teachers really encourage a love of reading for the students and that just motivated Emma to participate in the contest. She loved it and was so excited to turn her entry in and never in our wildest dreams did we ever think she would actually win,” she said. “Here at West Elementary, reading is really encouraged. Just the other day we had a read-a-thon where all the students read all day long and so we’re very proud of our school.”

Emma’s parents found out about the prize last week and had a hard time keeping the secret but loved seeing their daughter’s reaction once she heard the news.

“We were told around the end of last week and I couldn’t believe it. It was very, very hard to keep that secret for that long but she was super excited when she found out,” said Dori Patterson. “At first, she didn’t realize what exactly she just won. As we’ve explained it a little more she’s starting to realize how big of a deal it is. We’re just so thankful and blessed for this opportunity; we’re going to have a wonderful time that day. AEA has really gone all out to make her feel special and reward her for the reading so we’re very, very pleased with that.”

This year’s competition resulted in more than 250,000 books read by elementary school students all across the state. Emma and her family will certainly be enjoying their time at the game regardless of the outcome, but the whole family made sure to shout, “War Eagle!” before everyone left the gym.

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