U.S. CELLULAR UNVEILS 10 WINNING SCHOOLS IN ITS $1 MILLION CALLING ALL COMMUNITIES CAMPAIGN
CHICAGO, March 10, 2009 – U.S. Cellular's Calling All Communities tour of surprise $100,000 announcements ended last week, leaving 10 lucky schools making big plans for their windfalls. The nationwide contest doled out $1 million to schools across the country based solely on their ability to garner community support.
The Calling All Communities announcements were punctuated with bursts of confetti, cheering company associates, ecstatic students, and tearful teachers overcome with joy at schools in Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, North Carolina, Tennessee, Nebraska, West Virginia and Oklahoma.
"We wanted to create a way for schools to not just win, but to work together as a community toward a common purpose," said Karen Ehlers, vice president of public affairs and communications for U.S. Cellular. "This campaign created a remarkable energy and community pride that was much bigger than any of us anticipated."
School principals, who were let in on the surprise days earlier and sworn to secrecy, were finally able to share their joy with the communities that worked together to drum up enough votes to place them into a Top 10 spot.
"It was the hardest secret I ever had to keep," Principal Penny Miller told the crowd following their announcement at Kuemper Catholic High School in Carroll, Iowa. "I have to apologize to all of the people I have lied to over the past week."
Calling All Communities launched in early December encouraging residents across the country to vote for their favorite school. The grassroots campaign gained momentum as word spread that any school could win. Humphrey St. Francis School in Humphrey, Neb., a town of 741 residents, passed out campaign flyers to all the neighborhood businesses. Assumption High School in Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., and St. John the Evangelist Elementary School in Carrollton, Ill., sent letters to their alumni around the country asking them to vote. Schools held rallies and reached out to neighbors, family members and friends to encourage them to vote. The football team at Bearden High School in Knoxville, Tenn., rallied at malls and got coverage in the local newspaper. In other schools, student governments and extracurricular clubs got involved.
In the end, more than 120,000 votes were cast, nominating 6,500 schools. A diverse group of winners emerged from small rural to large urban communities. Winners included public and private, as well as elementary and high schools.
The award has no strings attached and comes at the time when many schools are facing short budgets and long wish lists. Heritage High School in Maryville, Tenn. may build a new theater. Washington High School in Washington, N.C., decided to set up college scholarships for its students. Kuemper Catholic High School in Carroll, Iowa, is discussing putting its share towards supporting staff salaries and may renovate its science labs. Destiny Christian School in Del City, Okla., could complete repairs on the gym locker rooms and classrooms damaged in an ice storm last year. Several schools plan to upgrade computer technology and purchase SMART Boardâ„¢ displays.
"Each school has different needs, from upgrading their facilities to updating their text books," Ehlers said. "At the end of the day, our hope is that this money will make a very real impact on children's education. We can't wait to do it again."
U.S. Cellular's Calling All Communities will be back this holiday season. The campaign will launch on Black Friday in November, giving 10 new schools a chance to mobilize their communities to win $100,000 next February and become a 2010 Calling All Communities champion. A full list of 2009 winners plus photos and videos of the surprise school events are at uscellular.com/callingallcommunities. Videos are also being posted on YouTube.
Each year U.S. Cellular donates more than $4 million to the United Way and non-profits serving its communities, and last year associates volunteered almost 10,000 hours.
About U.S. Cellular
The 8,700 associates of U.S. Cellular believe a wireless phone enhances people's lives and a wireless company should be in the business of bringing people together. U.S. Cellular has a wide range of monthly plans, including those with unlimited nationwide calling, unlimited free incoming calls and options to prepay. The company has a growing catalog of phones like the BlackBerry® Pearl and Curve, and the touch-screen Samsung Delve, which offer e-mail and Web access. Based in Chicago, U.S. Cellular is the nation's fifth-largest full-service wireless carrier, serving 6.2 million customers across the country. To learn more about the company visit one of its retail stores or uscellular.com.