Preps

Tuesday, Nov 06 2012 09:32 PM

Stars shine at North

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Kevin Harvick, left, speaks to an assembly at North High, his old high school. Next to him is Scrape, and mixed martial artist Gilbert Melendez.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Kevin Harvick presents "My Fight Matters" scholarships to North High students from left, Joel Bradshaw, William Gantz, John Carroll, and Emily Presley during an assembly Tuesday.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Kevin Harvick signs autographs for students at North High after an assembly in November 2012. Havick graduated from North High.

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BY MIKE GRIFFITH Californian staff writer mgriffith@bakersfield.com

North High put on quite the homecoming for Kevin Harvick and company Tuesday afternoon.

A gym packed with high achieving students, the school band playing its fight song and cheerleaders cheering greeted Harvick and Tim "Skrape" Katz and Gilbert Melendez as the trio strode to a makeshift stage.

While honored by the fanfare, Harvick said this day -- set up to present new uniforms to the wrestling team and a hand out a $5,000 scholarship -- was about trying to motivate the students at his alma mater.

And what better way to pump up the crowd than by having NASCAR Sprint Cup Star (Harvick), a co-founder of the popular TapouT apparel company (Skrape) a mixed martial arts champion Gilbert Melendez on a stage together.

Then have the North High wrestling team run into the gym decked out from head to toe in new TapouT apparel donated by the company.

Looking good, North High.

"Everybody in this gym, we're here to show you can do anything you want," said Harvick, who had already won a Late Model track championship at the old Mesa Marin Raceway prior to graduating from North in 1994.

"Whether it's Gilbert or Skrape or myself, if you put your mind to it the sky's the limit," continued Harvick. "We're happy to be here. I know these guys are happy to be here to draw awareness to North High so that you're proud to come to the school in the morning and have something to look forward to."

A wrestler while at North, it's clear that the wrestling program holds a special spot in Harvick's heart and he told the students that lessons he learned in the tiny wrestling room adjacent to the gym have served him well in life.

Harvick, though his Kevin Harvick Foundation, has done a lot to help the wrestling program in the past -- the wall of the wrestling room notes that NHS wrestling is sponsored by Kevin Harvick, Inc.

But this year, with the help of TapouT and it's My Fight Matters slogan, the stakes were raised with the awarding of a $5,000 scholarship to a North High senior won an essay contest focusing on overcoming adversity in life.

The four finalists, from 22 entries, were called to the stage where Harvick announced that William Gantz (who hopes to attend the UC Santa Cruz) was the winner.

But Harvick quickly added the three other finalists Joel Bradshaw, John Carrol and Emily Presley -- had a little something coming their way -- $1,000 scholarships thanks to TapouT.

And, just like a good TV infomercial, there was more: Another $1,000 thanks to local businessman Bob Newberry, who also happens to be a North High grad.

"Like Kevin said," it's all about giving somebody a break," Skrape said. "To team up with Kevin ... this is the first event that TapouT has ever done like this. We've done military stuff and Wounded Warrior stuff, but this is the very first event we've done with any school."

Afterward, Harvick and company, along with the wrestling team and award winners mingled in Harvick's favorite spot on campus -- the wrestling room.

"I've always been connected to the school here, we come back a lot, talk to the principals a lot, ask them what they need," Harvick said about his involvement with North. "This is about drawing awareness to the students, about being excited about coming to school, to participate in the events, get a good education. We didn't grow up with much either and you can make something of your lives.

"It is an old school but there's not reason why you can't utilize what you have. These kids don't need to feel like they don't have all the tools all the other kids (at newer high schools) are getting. Its about generating a little awareness and getting kids fired up. Giving the wrestling team a little recognition and the school in general is important to me."

Harvick will be competing in a Winston Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway on Sunday but today he'll be participating in his third annual Happy's Classic Golf Tournament at the Bakersfield County Club. Proceeds from the tournament benefit the Kevin Harvick Foundation.

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