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Murray High School's new Renaissance Program is unique for a number of reasons, but students say the most important is that it recognizes kids who are often forgotten.

The program came to life in February when Principal Richard Tranter and others decided to find a way to finance a program that rewards students who excel. Known as the Spartan Booster Association, volunteers recruited dozens of businesses and individuals to donate to the cause.As a reward for businesses who support the high school, the school built an electric sign sporting the names of contributors. Six sponsors spent $4,500 each to pay for the sign.

They share one side of it, while 40 slots are being sold at $500 each on the other side. Those slots are resold every year and that money pays for the Renaissance rewards.

Business owner Steve Borg said the idea offers businesses the best kind of advertisement.

"It not only gives businesses a little recognition," he said, "but all the money goes directly to the kids. People respect this more."

The rewards offered to the students vary depending on how they achieve and in what areas.

There are three tiers of rewards - Top Scholar, Spartan Scholar and VIP. Student with perfect attendance for the year will be eligible for a drawing for a $100 U.S. savings bond.

A VIP card is issued to students who improve their GPA by half a grade point or have 100 percent attendance. This is the part of the program that junior Evan Smith believes will recognize students who've traditionally been over-looked.

"Honors kids get recognition a lot," he said. "With this VIP, everyone who improves gets recognized."

Senior Misty Wright agrees and believes the program will motivate average students to excel.

All of the cards will save students something they don't have much of - money. Rewards include free admission to all pre-season athletic games, stomps and high school cultural events, as well as half price at dances.

"This is practical," Smith said. "It saves them money. I think what will get students really motivated is when their friends go to stomps and just walk in."

Other rewards include one day of independent study, exemption from two final exams, and a letter of recommendation from the principal.

Senior Blair Reyburn said he plans to cash in on one particular reward - a letter of recommendation from Tranter. "That's a pretty big gun when you're applying for college," he said.

Tranter and Ross Rossander, president of the Spartan Booster Association, are pleased with community response and hope the extra recognition will push some kids over the top.

"We're going to track kids' GPAs and see if recognizing kids for achieving will actually motivate them," Tranter said. Rossander emphasizes the program will spotlight kids who aren't used to the attention.

"The thing I like about it is that any kid can be recognized for improving," he said.