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By SHAINA STOCKTON, Staff
City officials, school faculty, staff and students gathered in the auditorium of Galax Elementary School on March 8 to celebrate the school’s Cooperative Center for Exceptional Children’s victory in the UCT Gives Back Contest.
Several representatives of United Commercial Travelers, including CEO Joe Hoffman, arrived at the school to present the class with its $10,000 prize.
The school won the national contest, in which supporters voted for the class’ entry online.
GES Assistant Principal Sonia Truitt introduced Hoffman, who expressed his congratulations to CCEC. “We started this contest and got many great submissions throughout North America and Canada,” he said.
Once the votes were narrowed down to nine finalists, he saw something extraordinary. Both locally and even nationally, a team effort was put forth to bring the prize money home to Galax.
“Your dedication to each other is deserving for this award. It stands as an example of how UCT and the community came together for a good cause,” Hoffman said.
Individuals, businesses and non-profits shared links to the voting page each day.
The page featured video submissions for each of the finalists. Voters were able to tally their pick after clicking on the school of their choice. One vote per day per computer was allowed.
“It was close there for the last couple of days,” Hoffman told The Gazette. “The top two were running neck and neck, and in the final couple of days, Galax pulled ahead and won by a couple percent.”
Members of the staff worked together to create a video that was completely original to the school, Truitt said. Followed by an introduction by teacher Linda Hunter, viewers were led through the class’s typical routine.
In the video, Hunter expressed the need for better equipment to help her students. She told The Gazette in an interview during the contest that she was hesitant to write down her wish list before the contest was over, just in case the school didn’t win.
Now, she says the first purchase will be a smart board. In fact, she had a blank space on one of the classroom walls where she wanted it to go.
A smart board is a large interactive board that works a lot like an iPad. With it, the students will be able to interact with the programs by touching and moving objects around on the screen. Although this item will be pricy — the one Hunter has her eye on will cost around $6,000, according to Principal Brian Stuart — it will go a long way in helping her students develop skills they can use later in life, Hunter said.
Following Hoffman’s address to the school, a large check was presented to the class on stage in the auditorium. Two CCEC students gripped the prize tightly, and grinned as their audience cheered loudly.
On cue, the grade-school students shouted in unison: “Thank you, UCT!”