| November 13, 2009 - Once again, U.S. Cellular is inviting communities to rally around their favorite school to share $1 million. Ten schools across the country with the most votes will each win $100,000 to use in any way they want in the company's Calling All Communities campaign.
Between now and Jan. 15, 2010, anyone 18 or older can visit any U.S. Cellular store to receive a code to vote online for their favorite school. Schools of all sizes, public, private, urban and rural, K- 12 have a chance to become a Calling All Communities champion.
The campaign returns at a time when school districts across the country are feeling a greater budget pinch in a slowing economy. According to the American Association of School Administrators, the percentage of schools cutting extracurricular activities almost tripled from 10 percent in 2008-09 to 28 percent for the 2009-2010 school year.
Tennessee ranks 41st in student achievement, ranking behind six neighboring states. Tennessee State Collaborative on Reforming Education (Tennessee SCORE), a group headed by former Senator William H. Frist, recently released a report titled, "A Roadmap to Success: A Plan to Make Tennessee #1 in the Southeast for Education Within Five Years." Operating Tennessee SCORE and the five-year plan will cost an estimated $20 million, which does not include government funds. The plan stresses that improving education will require focusing on several important areas including teacher quality, school leadership, technology and community engagement.
Last year's top 10 schools harnessed the power of their communities to win, and they've used their winnings in a variety of ways, including rebuilding a storm-damaged gymnasium, upgrading computer labs, building new playgrounds and creating scholarship programs.
"After winning Calling All Communities, we took requests for how we should use the money," said Dr. John Bartlett, principal of Bearden High School in Knoxville, Tenn. "We were able to add new computer and science lab equipment, purchase band instruments and repair our gymnasium floor. Winning Calling All Communities was a victory for our school and the entire community that supported us all the way."
"I love the fact that there were no strings attached and no timeframe for us to use the money," said Sherry Walker, teacher at Heritage High School in Maryville, Tenn. "We refer to our new computer room that the money made possible as the ‘Taj Mahal.' It is definitely instilling pride and respect among our students."
Last year, U.S. Cellular shifted its giving strategy to helping schools. The company will give more than $5 million to support schools and teachers in 2009 and 2010 through Calling All Communities and Calling All Teachers, which awards $1 million to teachers across the country to fund classroom projects.
"We're eager to see the creativity of our local schools as they unite to gather community support," said Jack Brundige, director of sales for U.S. Cellular in Tennessee. "We expect Tennessee schools to run strong, competitive campaigns."
Visit uscellular.com/callingallcommunities for official rules or to view videos from last year's campaign.