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By SHAINA STOCKTON
Nearing the end of the UCT Gives Back contest, Galax Elementary School’s Cooperative Care Center for Exceptional Children (CCEC) has received an outpouring of support and votes, bringing the program closer each day to a $10,000 prize.
The contest first came to the school’s attention when GES Assistant Principal Sonia Truitt heard about it from her parents. Her father, Bob Taylor, is an active member of the local United Commercial Travelers (UCT) council.
UCT is “a national fraternal organization that focuses on giving back to local communities,” Taylor said.
After being told about the opportunity, Truitt immediately began the process of putting together an entry. “I’m just incredibly passionate about this whole thing, and I really want them to do well,” she said.
For the contest, the class had to create a two-minute video explaining what they would do with the prize money.
CCEC teacher Linda Hunter explained that the money is needed to purchase better materials for their class. She noted that the children work with pre-vocational and vocational skills, which require materials that need replacing on a regular basis.
CCEC was chosen as a finalist to compete against eight other schools. They are the only finalist representing Virginia.
When she first heard that the video had made it to the final round, Hunter said that her reaction was shock and surprise. She gave credit to the many people who lent a hand in creating the video.
GES technology teacher Shannon Wilson, GES paraprofessional Teri Short and Galax Middle School technology teacher LaShay Hall were responsible for the filming and editing of the film, according to Hunter and Truitt. GES music teacher Dawn Kinman was also thanked for writing an original song for the video.
“Dawn had gone home sick, and was still making the music from home while she was sick,” said Truitt.
Then, of course, there were the stars of the video: Hunter’s students.
She recalled how enjoyable the contest was for her seven students, and the amount of hard work they put into the film. “We made signs, and we talked about things that they liked and wanted in the video. They had so many ideas,” she said.
For the video, they focused on outlining their curriculum, demonstrating their growing talents with art, music, reading and playing sports. When they were finished, Hunter said that there was quite a bit of film for them to edit.
The finished product was enjoyed by all, especially the students. “They loved seeing their video,” said Hunter.
She also noted that the student body and the community have been very supportive. “The entire student body has always been very welcoming,” she said. “My students feel like part of the school.”
With this project, Hunter believes that they are even more integrated than they were before. “A lot of people have a better understanding of what we do now,” she said.
Throughout the community, votes have been clicked in by students, teachers, parents and many others who have been reached with news of the contest. Status posts linking the contest website have been shared across social media sites like Facebook.
HOW TO VOTE: The contest will remain open until Feb. 15. Visit www.uct.org, click the link for “UCT Gives Back Contest,” and click on CCEC’s video to cast a vote. One vote per day per computer is allowed.