U.S. Cellular has announced that its Calling All Communities campaign will return in September with changes that will spread the impact of its $1 million prize to more schools across the country. For the third year, the campaign will challenge schools to rally community support for the chance to enhance students' learning opportunities any way they see fit. This year, instead of 10 schools, 18 schools that garner the most community votes will win a share of $1 million.
“We wanted to give even more schools the opportunity to receive needed funds and reap the intangible benefits the program can bring, like building lasting connections between neighbors, and community pride,” said Kimberly Sebastian, director of sales in eastern North Carolina for U.S. Cellular. “Our proven commitment to education through Calling All Communities is just one of the reasons we have the happiest customers in wireless.”
The value of investing in schools extends from local communities to national initiatives. The current administration has made education and expanding access to mobile broadband a priority to bolster U.S. economic competitiveness. The recently unveiled National Broadband Plan would provide high-speed wireless coverage to 98 percent of Americans and give more students throughout the country fast, convenient access to online learning resources.
“Many schools have reached out to tell us how rewarding the Calling All Communities experience was for them and have used their winnings to upgrade technology,” Sebastian said. “Now is a great time for communities to get an early start on organizing their upcoming campaigns, especially since there will be more chances to win.”
Since the program began in 2008, U.S. Cellular has awarded $2 million to schools. Calling All Communities champions have used their winnings in a variety of ways to strengthen the learning experience for thousands of students across the country. Many outfitted their classrooms with new computers, Promethean boards and other technologies.
“I'm so glad our school won the money from U.S. Cellular,” said sixth-grader Griffen Kornegay of B.F. Grady Elementary School in Duplin, a 2010 Calling All Communities Champion. “My teacher is showing us how to use the new technology, and it's so much fun.”
Two schools in North Carolina were among the 10 that garnered the most votes in the 2010 campaign. At B.F. Grady, the $100,000 was divided among the teachers to spend — $10,000 per grade level from K to 8, with $10,000 divided among physical education, art, music and counselors. The majority of the teachers purchased technology: smartboards, projectors and computer programs. All purchases were based on the 900 students’ assessment data and required the teachers to focus on student achievement. Wayne Country Day School in Goldsboro, N.C., used the money to purchase Promethean boards for all 20 classrooms in the school, benefiting more than 250 students daily.
Other winners improved outdated infrastructure and renovated gymnasiums, school kitchens and sciences labs. A few paid portions of their proceeds forward by giving college scholarships to graduating students and donating 10 percent to non-profits around the world.
Many of the past champions report that while the money was an educational boon for the schools, the campaign to win stimulated an equally rewarding sense of community that has lasted long after confetti from the surprise announcements was swept away.
Mary Jane Bartley, principal of St. Liborius School in Crete, Ill., said students, teachers, parents and their parish community have become much closer since its 2010 win. The school's $100,000 winnings helped jumpstart the addition of new classrooms and a large media center.
“It has also energized parents who have become more active, more devoted, and more willing to become involved in projects to benefit the school,” Bartley said. “They, like our students, have a renewed belief that they can make things happen.”
The 2009 champions can attest that the positive effects last long after initial purchases and improvements are made. Wendy Hooks, former principal of Brogden Primary School in Dudley, said students became more focused and engaged in learning after the school became one of the first 10 to win in the campaign's inaugural year. “It was a morale booster for everyone,” she said.
For more information about U.S. Cellular, its cutting-edge phone lineup, high-speed nationwide network and past Calling All Communities campaigns, visit uscellular.com or Facebook.com/uscellular. Check back this summer for details about the 2011 Calling All Communities campaign. Official rules will be available when the program launches in September.