Cary News

Apex students find it pays to show up

Yellow entry cards in hand, about 1,700 students streamed into Apex High School’s football stadium Wednesday eager to get their free Roo Cups.

For two weeks the students fought off colds, tugged themselves out of bed, and brushed off distractions in order to meet the requirements needed to get the cup – perfect attendance, no tardies and good conduct.

Last summer many students were disappointed when the plastic Kangaroo Express Cups – then entitling the bearer to free drink refills – sold out in about a month.

This time the high-schoolers’ good behavior gave them a leg up on the general public. The company, owned by Cary-based Pantry Inc., sponsored the Roo Cup rally and skydiving show, so the qualifying Apex High School students and Facebook fans could get the coveted cup a week early.

Kangaroo Express locations will have the cups available to the public May 23 for $6.99 plus tax. But unlike last year, 20-ounce refills will cost 25 cents through Labor Day.

“I think it’s really awesome,” said Junior Adrika Rahim, 17, about the cups.

She said the toughest requirement was not being late to class, especially after lunch. Rahim said she solved the problem by leaving five minutes early.

Karen Ortiz,16, said she’s usually always running late and the incentive program helped to motivate her.

“I think it was hard,” Ortiz said. “You get sidetracked by your friends. I would just say ‘Hey, I need to leave. Remember Roo Cup.’ ”

For junior Jocelyn Johnson, 17, the motivation was all about the cheap refills.

“A lot of people don’t have a lot of money to spend nowadays,” Johnson said. “I’m thinking about getting a second job. I have a (paid) internship but I need to save money for college.”

Senior Jon Perkins, 17, said last summer he missed out on the Roo Cups and was determined to get one this year.

“I was dealing with a bad cold this entire week and I didn’t want to get up,” Perkins said. “But, to get a (cheap) drink all summer, it was worth it.”

The pre-launch was a thank you to teens, who helped make the product a phenomenon around the South, said Director of Marketing Jeff Walton, with Pantry, Inc..

“They are the ones that named it,” he said.

When the company launched the summer refill cup last year, teenagers were not the target market. But the allure of free refills caught teens attention and they took to Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook telling friends to get their “Roo” cups, Walton said.

The name stuck.

It was Apex High School Principal Matt Wight’sidea to make the students earn the cups. About 74 percent of the school’s 2,300 students qualified for the incentive.

“I thought this would be a good way to encourage attendance,” Wight said. “I also believe that if people have to work for something it means more to them.”

He said he noticed students who were sometimes late, making more of an effort to be on time. He said with the close of the school year it was the perfect time to launch the challenge, which began May 1.

Apex High School’s attendance rate has been at 97 percent for at least the past three years, according its N.C. Department of Public Schools report card. In 2010-2010 the school’s attendance record at 97 percent was higher than the district at 96 percent and state at 95 percent.