Suddenly, life has turned upside down again for Skyla Degrasse.
She and her parents were housesitting for her older sister on the South Shore when the phone rang Friday.
Her dad, Steven, heard a man say Skyla had won the vaccination lottery for a $100,000 college scholarship. Thinking it was a prank or scam, he hung up.
The man called back, and Skyla answered. She took down the information and told her mom, Sandra, “A man called about the lottery.”
Sandra called the number. It was no prank.
Skyla Degrasse, a 17-year-old Hammond High Magnet School senior, will get $100,000 deposited into a college savings account.
She and Clement Dasalla, an 80-year-old former police officer from New Orleans, are the first winners in Louisiana’s COVID-19 vaccine lottery. Dasalla will receive $100,000 in cash.
Four more weeks of winners will be announced, with a $1 million grand prize to be awarded in mid-August.
Gov. John Bel Edwards and state health officials are hoping the lottery, which will provide $2.3 million in prizes to 14 winners, will turn around Louisiana’s lagging vaccination rates, especially now that the fast-spreading delta variant is driving a spike in cases and hospitalizations.
For Skyla and her family, however, avoiding the deadly virus and being able to return to school were incentives enough to get the vaccination as soon as they became eligible for it.
After a year of virtual learning, she is eager to return to school and study hard in her senior year.
“We did the shots way before the lottery,” Sandra Degrasse said. “When my husband went to his pharmacy back in April or May, they were doing vaccinations and he told us. Skyla wanted me to do it with her, and we did.”
State officials came to where they were housesitting Friday and brought lots of balloons and the big check.
“The neighbors didn’t know what was going on,” Mrs. Degrasse said, laughing. “Skyla feels like a celebrity with all these people contacting her and asking questions.”
Skyla was barely a year old the first time her life got upended, and it was not a happy occasion, her mom recalled. The family was living in St. Bernard when Katrina hit in 2005.
Displaced, they kicked around several states a while until securing a FEMA trailer in Mt. Hermon. After life in the FEMA trailer, they wound up in Hammond.
Her husband is disabled, and she is currently unemployed. The lottery win is a big blessing, Mrs. Degrasse said.
Skyla plans to attend Southeastern Louisiana and she’s considering studying to become a psychologist or a doctor.
“I’m really glad I’m vaccinated,” Skyla said. “I’m really glad I made the choice. I would like all my friends to get vaccinated so they can be safe and have a shot at a million.”