EVART \u2014 Jonah Smith admits he never really tried as hard as he could when it came to grades at school. However, Smith became motivated to work harder and apply himself when Evart High School Principal Jessica Kolenda urged district officials at the beginning of the second semester to support the creation of Champions of Evart, an incentivized mentorship program. If students, with the help of mentors, meet their academic and personal goals for the semester, the students receive $200. On June 27, Smith and 24 fellow Evart High School students were the first to receive their checks for meeting their goals at the inaugural Champions of Evart Gala. \u201cI\u2019m a champion,\u201d he announced raising his hands above his head, as he had offered to speak to the more than 100 people in attendance. \u201cI was probably a 1.6 GPA student when this started. I thought they were crazy when they gave me a goal of 3.6 GPA.\u201d Smith quipped, \u201cI nailed it. If I can do it, then anyone can do it. It\u2019s $200. It\u2019s good stuff.\u201d Based off a similar program focused on mentorship and financial incentives at Wayne Memorial High School downstate, Kolenda said the Champions of Evart program is supported solely by community donations. \u201cThe students select a mentor and they set out academic goals to improve their grades,\u201d she said. \u201cFor students with a higher GPA, they select a measurable personal growth goal. The goals can\u2019t be too easy.\u201d Along with student testimonials of the program Tuesday night, Evart Elementary School Principal Sarah Bailey, who served as one of more than three dozen mentors, said the Champions in attendance Tuesday all had something thing in common: grace and grit. \u201cThere\u2019s stories all around here tonight about grit and grace,\u201d she said. \u201cThose are both important characteristics, but so is motivation.\u201d Having the support of an adult other than their parents who wants to see them be successful provides the student with motivation, Bailey said. \u201cGrit and grace are not the only reason, but the incentive to be successful, that\u2019s what we have here with the Champions program,\u201d she said.