02/19/09 — Brogden Primary is one of 10 to get $100,000

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Brogden Primary is one of 10 to get $100,000

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on February 19, 2009 1:46 PM

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Students at Brogden Primary School react after hearing that their school received $100,000 from U.S. Cellular's contest "Calling All Communities" during an assembly on Wednesday.

Students and staff at Brogden Primary crowded into the cafeteria and library Wednesday morning, unaware that within minutes they would learn the school was the recipient of a $100,000 award.

The school is one of 10 in the country to receive the prize as part of U.S. Cellular's nationwide Calling All Communities campaign. Brogden became the second winner to be announced so far in the contest that encouraged communities to cast votes for their favorite school.

As Wendy Hooks, principal, raised her hand to signal silence, a hush fell over the crowd in anticipation of the announcement.

Marcel Bekers of U.S. Cellular, director of sales for eastern North Carolina, then told the audience the good news -- they would be receiving $100,000.

"In this school, all of you came out of nowhere and took a place in the Top 10," he said. "So you guys are winners. We're so proud of you."

Shouts and applause erupted, as nearly two dozen company representatives tossed T-shirts and play money into the crowd while confetti filled the air.

Mrs. Hooks was most proud of the outcome. She admitted that when she first learned there were 6,500 schools in the running, it gave her pause. But she continued to push for the prize.

"There are lots of small towns surrounding the Dudley community that send their children to our school," she said. "The staff at Brogden believed that we could come together and win this contest. The warmth shared among our school community is incredible. ... We are just so thankful that U.S. Cellular would do this kind of thing for children across the nation."

The announcement comes at a time when budget cuts and the economy are at the forefront.

"This contest is our effort to play a small role in bringing some much-needed support to schools," said Karen Ehlers, vice president of public affairs and communications for U.S. Cellular. "Between the 6,500 schools nominated and more than 120,000 votes cast, it's clear that communities across the country feel the same way. This is an amazing victory for Brogden that truly can be celebrated by the entire community."

Mrs. Hooks said her 735 students will benefit from the additional funding.

"The outside view of our school does not make the best first impression, but when you enter our doors, it's a beautiful sight to see the students and staff working so hard," she said. "We are so thrilled to receive this money during these crucial economic times."

Brogden has long been at the top of the county's wish list for school improvements. One of the most pressing needs mentioned for years has been an expanded gymnasium or meeting area.

That was keenly illustrated Wednesday, when the school had to be divided between the cafeteria and media center, where additional cameras were set up for the overflow crowd to observe the proceedings.

Board of Education member Shirley Sims, whose district Brogden is in, knows the need all too well. Not only through the school board -- her first teaching job in 1956 was at the school.

"This is a great day. I just don't know what can cap this," she said. "It's something that we have been waiting for for a long, long time. ... But this year you will see them come with all those trucks and sand and water, because we are building a brand new gym at Brogden Primary School."

It will actually be a cafetorium -- a combination cafeteria and gymnasium, explain-ed Sprunt Hill, assistant superintendent for auxiliary services. The announcement of future construction, as well as the contest money, make it an exciting time for the school, he said.

Speaking on behalf on Dr. Steven Taylor, superintendent of schools, absent because of illness, Hill expressed gratitude to the school board for "working tirelessly to make this happen" and to U.S. Cellular for its vision for the schools.

"The wonderful instructional leadership that we have at this school, as well as the staff -- you need to give yourself a big round of applause for what you do," he said. "We do love our children, we do want to do what's best for them. We want the children to succeed."

Brogden was the second school to be recognized. Last week, U.S. Cellular presented $100,000 to Heritage High School in Maryville, Tenn. The remaining eight winners will be announced in the coming weeks and posted on the Web at www.uscellular.com/callingallcommunities.