AAFES awards $3,000 in prizes to military students

Ashley Weston, a recent high school graduate, took home the grand prize in the Army & Air Force Exchange Service's worldwide You Made the Grade sweepstakes. She was honored at the Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Exchange by Exchange Operations Manager Brenda Frego on July 25. (Army & Air Force Exchange Service Photo by Roxann Madison)

Ashley Weston, a recent high school graduate, took home the grand prize in the Army & Air Force Exchange Service's worldwide You Made the Grade sweepstakes. She was honored at the Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Exchange by Exchange Operations Manager Brenda Frego on July 25. (Army & Air Force Exchange Service Photo by Roxann Madison)

DALLAS -- As a high school senior, Ashley Weston had one last chance at turning good grades into big rewards with the Army & Air Force Exchange Service’s You Made the Grade program. In her final semester of eligibility, her persistence finally paid off.

The 18-year-old took home the top prize in the Exchange’s semiannual sweepstakes, part of a program to reward military students for academic success. Ashley received a $2,000 Exchange gift card during a presentation at the Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Exchange on July 25.

“It was a miracle, honestly,” said Ashley, who graduated this spring from Byron P. Steele II High School in Cibolo, Texas. “I didn’t think it would happen to me.”

The prize comes at the perfect time. Ashley starts college this fall at Texas State University in San Marcos. With her winnings, she plans to buy a laptop and other supplies needed to start her college career off on the right foot.

Ashley had been entering the You Made the Grade sweepstakes for years. Her father, retired Master Sgt. Darrell Weston, served in the Air Force for 24 years, retiring in 2011.

“For years we’ve gone to the BX to get the coupon booklet,” Weston said. “The program gives military kids the encouragement to do their very best.”

The worldwide sweepstakes also awards second- and third-place prizes. The West Point Exchange awarded a $1,500 gift card to a high school student. Third place, a $500 gift card, was presented to fourth-grader Logan Hicks at the Selfridge Air National Guard Base Exchange. Logan’s father, Capt. Wayne Hicks, has served in the Army for 13 years.

Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Sean Applegate, the Exchange senior enlisted advisor, praised the winners for their hard work.

“The Exchange is excited to reward these students for a job well done,” Applegate said. “Hard work in school pays off—and these winners prove that good things come to those who put in time and effort toward their education.”

Through the Exchange’s You Made the Grade program, first- through 12th-graders with a B average or higher are eligible to receive a coupon book filled with Exchange discounts and a sweepstakes entry form for a shot at a $2,000, $1,500 or $500 prize. The program is intended to reward military students who excel in the classroom. Those who enter must be dependents of authorized Exchange shoppers. Shoppers can visit customer service at their local Exchange for a coupon booklet and sweepstakes entry form.