She may be living in El Paso, Texas but Lake High School alumnus, Elizabeth Urbanowski, is doing her best to help the tornado battered school.
Last month, Urbanowski, along with Troy Zam, another Lake alumnus, started a Facebook page nominating the school for ABC-TV’s hit show, “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.”
“When I heard about the tornado I was in Texas,” Urbanowski said. “A friend called and I was shell-shocked. I got right on the computer and read about it and I checked on friends. I put up a video on YouTube and got 40,000 hits in a day.”
Because of the success of that video, Urbanowski and Zam decided to nominate the school for EMHE.
“I wanted to help, to do anything,” Urbanowski explained. “You feel so helpless when you are so far away.”
Keeping her eyes and ears open, Urbanowski heard about the Kohl’s contest and decided to submit the school for the national contest.
In celebration of Kohl's Cares®10th anniversary, the company is donating $500,000 to 20 schools, for a total of $10 million. Kohl's Cares® is a philanthropic program that supports children's health and education.
Kohl's Facebook fans can vote for public or private schools that serve students in Kindergarten through grade 12 by visiting www.facebook.com/kohls.
“The officials at the school have a ton to do right now and I have time to try to help,” Urbanowski said. “Right now we are in third place and we have to try to keep the votes coming in on a daily basis.”
The contest will run through Sept. 3. Each person can vote up to 20 times for their favorite elementary, middle or high schools during this time, with a maximum of five votes for any individual school. The top 20 vote-getting schools will win $500,000 each. Winning schools will be announced in late September.
If you think that Lake winning a national contest is a pipe dream, think again. Last month, Bedford High School, located in Temperance, won $250,000 in the Pepsi Refresh Project. The top two ideas each month win the large donation and many other schools have received various amounts of money for their projects as well.
The winning project was submitted by an organization coined “Mule Muscle.” According to Rebecca Regnier, president of the organization, the money will be used to build a new weight room for the school.
“It was very exciting,” Regnier, a part-time reporter with WTVG- 13ABC, said. “The money will be enough to finish construction on the weight room.”
Although it was exciting to win, Regnier said it took countless hours of work to get the word out and to get and keep voters voting on a daily basis. In fact, the project had been nominated in May but finished fifth that month.
“We did not win in May but we learned a lot from the experience,” Regnier said. “We put it back on in June and we actively sought voters and then asked those voters to bring in more voters. We turned our voters into ’vote getters.’”
The group campaigned on the Internet and in person and by June 6, the project was in first place.
“We never, ever stopped reminding people to vote and we connected with other groups as well to get more votes in,” she said. “The big key to this was partnerships. We would team up with other projects across the nation, asking them to vote for us. And we would vote for their project.”
“We had mutually beneficial partnerships,” Regnier said. “It took a lot of work but we won and so did they. The Lake project is very exciting and they should be an emotional favorite to win. These contests are harder than you think. There is a lot of work involved but the rewards are fantastic.”
Lake has already received partnership requests in the Kohl’s contest.
Ben Moy, a teacher and orchestra director for the Ferndale School District, in Ferndale, Mi, has already started drumming up votes for the Flyers.
“I am not affiliated in any way with Lake High,” Moy said. “I just came across their cause as I was doing some work in support of the school I teach at, Ferndale High School. The tragic story of what happened to their school really touched me so I encouraged all the participants who voted for our school to spend their extra votes on Lake High to keep them in the top 20 so that they could win one of the awards.”
According to Moy, the Ferndale project hopes to modernize the school’s auditorium and add air conditioning to the facility which is “unusable” from May through September.
Urbanowski said she is planning to work with other school’s in the Kohl’s contest to drum up more votes.
For more information on Urbanowski’s projects like the Kohl’s and EMHE contests, go to www.myseedlings.org.