PHOENIX, Ariz. — In 2003, DriveTime created a program to donate dollars and volunteer time to disadvantaged schools, which the company classifies as schools without local funding for necessary repairs, little or no parental involvement and failing test scores. The SchoolTime program began with two pilot schools in Phoenix. Now, three years after its inception, the program has grown to include 18 schools in nine states, reaching more than 14,000 students.

DriveTime employees are in charge of SchoolTime and serve as volunteers in the schools and contribute to a payroll deduction program. In addition to employee efforts, SchoolTime is funded through DriveTime's Third Annual SchoolDrive Sales Promotion. From Oct. 1 to 31, $100 from each car sold at each of the company's 95 dealerships will go to fund the SchoolTime program. In the past two years alone, the promotion has generated nearly $1 million, according to executives.

"We're able to take that money and really make an impact in our partner schools," explained Jon Ehlinger, a DriveTime spokesperson. "But the real impact comes from our employee volunteers. Through the combined efforts of our employees, school administrators, staff and teachers, the SchoolTime program has been a success. One school saw increased attendance during standardized testing; one school improved from a D-school to an A-school; and one school has seen skyrocketing attendance at PTA meetings.

"Our goal is to truly make a difference in the way students perform, the way parents participate, and to support educators — and we're doing it one school at a time," he said.

The company enters into long-term partnerships with at least one school in each city where a DriveTime dealership is located, according to officials. The schools are chosen based on several factors including diverse demographics, a large percentage of English-as-a-second-language students, 80 percent of students or more qualify for free lunch, among other qualifying factors.

Most recently, DriveTime chose Walter G. Byers Elementary in Charlotte to participate in the SchoolTime program, executives noted.