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8-year-old gets Right Start

He wins $15,000 to pay for college in online contest

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A West Valley boy has a jump start on college — at the tender age of 8.

Justyn Searle won a $15,000 college scholarship from RightStart.com's online sweepstakes. The name of the South Kearns elementary student was selected in a random national drawing.

"It's cool," said the blushing third-grader-to-be, who is certain he would have to save his $5 a week allowance for a whole year to come up with that kind of money.

And it's hard not to believe him — after all, math is his favorite subject, and he's already started learning multiplication and division.

The fact that Justyn's name was drawn in the sweepstakes caps a string of coincidences for the Searles.

Mother Elaine Searle doesn't do much shopping online. She just stumbled upon RightStart.com, an electronic marketplace for child safety, development and educational products, perhaps through an e-mail attachment or link on another site.

The scholarship drawing caught her eye. And, because there were no strings attached, Searle filled out the e-entry form and forgot about it. Literally.

That is, until receiving a FedEx package in the mail from The Right Start. The package seemed pretty official, asking for a notarized signature on a "potential winner" sheet, but Searle wasn't overly eager to jump.

"I'm skeptical about these kinds of things," she said.

But then The Right Start sent her another notification and called her at work — coincidentally on her 34th birthday — to announce her boy had won the 15-grand prize.

"I was thinking this birthday was not going to be that great, either. But that was pretty exciting," she said. "I just don't win things like this."

Justyn is the eighth winner of RightStart.com's scholarship drawing. Other winners, posted on the Web site sporting a cap and gown with a giant check in hand, range in age from 1-year-old Emma from Ohio to 10-year-olds Julia of Virginia and Matthew of Washington. Winners will be drawn every 15 days until 24 have been awarded scholarships.

The sweepstakes coincides with the company's 15-year anniversary and aims to help customers and market the company, CEO Jerry Welch said.

"This is our chance to do good and do well at the same time," Welch said. "The feedback's been terrific, almost overwhelming . . . and we're going to make a lot more people happy."

Winners have been drawn since February. Justyn won in early July, and another little girl was added to the winner's circle about 10 days ago.

Searle has yet to receive the prize. Welch says clearing legal hurdles takes four to six weeks and that other winners have received their scholarships.

Meanwhile, the Searles are pondering the possibilities — for making the scholarship grow through investments, and for what Justyn might become.

Maybe he will be a doctor. Or, as he mentioned the other day, maybe an athlete. He's pretty tall, after all, and he likes to play soccer, basketball and playground tag.

"It's amazing to me," Elaine Searle said. "It's amazing there was no catch. I didn't have to do anything — except have a beautiful son."

E-MAIL: jtcook@desnews.com