Bernadette Cuttone saw the momentum build within Saint Michael School.
About a year after Cardinal Joseph Bernardin Catholic School won $50,000 from U.S. Cellular’s Calling All Communities program, Saint Michael School found they were in the running to win the same.
“An incredibly energetic teacher came to my office and said ‘Come on, we have to do this,’” said Cuttone, principal of Saint Michael School. “My secretary also played a huge role. Parents, students and the entire parish got heavily involved. Everyone went into a frenzy getting the vote cards in.”
People visiting U.S. Cellular stores could leave a vote for a school, and the top 18 vote-getting schools win. The most voted-for school won $150,000, and the next 17 win $50,000 each.
Starting with teacher Kathleen Sulikowski and secretary Julie Pericht, a momentum built for Saint Michael School, Cuttone said. Word spread throughout the parish, and more people kept getting involved to put the school in the top 18, by visiting stores and collecting votes.
“It was a great feeling. So positive. So much fun,” Cuttone said. “These are tough times in our country, and to see people get behind a cause and enjoy themselves was really gratifying.”
On Nov. 1, U.S. Cellular announced the winners, with Saint Michael among the top 18. Oak Forest’s Saint Damian School was also in the top 18 winners out of about 1,300 participating schools.
“A woman made cookies for U.S. Cellular people to stay thank you,” Cuttone said, about the reaction upon winning. “We went to all the different stores to tell them we appreciated it from the community. It was wonderful to see all the people in Orland Park supporting us and we're grateful for it.”
Faculty will be weighing in on how exactly they will use the funds, Cuttone said.
“We’re in a good place with technology, but we do have some old computers we’d like to replace,” Cuttone said. “We’ll put a lot of thought into how to use the money and take in a lot of opinions.”
Aqsa Islamic School in Bridgeview and Columbia Central School in Steger were the other Illinois winners.
For the third year in a row a school in Seymour, Tenn., a suburb of Knoxville with 11,000 residents, has captured the top prize in the wireless carrier’s $1 million nationwide campaign to support education. Seymour Middle School rallied the most votes to take home the $150,000. In 2011, Seymour Primary School was the big $150,000 winner and Seymour High School won $100,000 the year before.