Area schools make final push for $150k

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October 1, 2011 - 12:00 AM

As a last ditch effort to get Allen County schools a share of the $1 million U.S. Cellular is giving away through its “Calling All Communities” contest, Iola High cheerleaders and student council members, and a few middle school students, held a get-out-the-vote rally outside of the communication store’s Iola location Thursday.
The nationwide online voting contest, which runs through Oct. 6, will give the school with the most votes $150,000. The next top 17 vote getters will each receive $50,000. To better the chances of succeeding in the contest, all three Allen County school districts have teamed up, agreeing to split the potential prize money.
After hearing their administrators, teachers and parents talk about the importance of getting the no-strings attached money since the annual contest began Sept. 9, Senior Class President Doug Stewart said it was time the students took some initiative to garner a few votes of their own.
While standing on the boulevard of North State Street, the students held signs as the cheerleaders called out cheers as people driving by honked and waved.
Because voters must be 18 years of age or older, making people aware of the contest is more important than trying to get peers to vote.
“It shows how together we are as a town,” Stewart said. “And the money is definitely going to do something for us.”
Administrators from all three districts have indicated any money gained as a result of the contest will be primarily invested in technology.
Thrive Allen County’s David Toland, a key facilitator of the countywide effort, said having the students take an active interest in getting people to vote shows the community how much this means to them.
“I would hope that this is a good reminder to the community that the whole purpose of this effort is to help the kids,” he said. “Seeing the kids participating drives home that point.”
USD 257 Superintendent of Schools Brian Pekarek agreed.
“I hope by seeing the students out here, they really know that the money is going to impact the kids,” he said.
According to the most up-to-date data provided by U.S. Cellular, the three-district team — USD 256, 257 and 258 — is 23 out of the 2,420 schools across the country that have received votes. Although it’s not a money position, Iola’s U.S. Cellular Retail Sales Manager Geoff Aubrey said it’s not too late for the local schools to gain in the polls.
“Just last week a school had jumped up five places in a matter of a few days, so we can still pull this out,” he said.
The community, Stewart said, should be proud to be faring so well in the nationwide contest.
“There’s a lot of schools out there that are a lot bigger than we are, so to be up there in the top 25 is a pretty big thing for us,” he said. “We should be proud of where we’re at but we can do better.”
Administrators agreed to use Iola Middle School as the namesake for which to cast votes for the Allen County schools. To participate, voters must stop at any U.S. Cellular location and get a voter registration card. Then, voters can begin voting once per day online.
Because U.S. Cellular’s lone Allen County retail office is in Iola, 704 N. State St.,, people struggling to find transportation should contact Thrive at 365-8128 and arrangements can be made to accommodate them.

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