3 schools up for funding from Big Lots

COVINGTON -- Three Newton County schools are vying for a chance to win up to $10,000 in prizes from a national campaign.

They are competing against six other schools in Georgia and 190 more from around the United States in the 2010 Lots2Give contest sponsored by Big Lots. The grand prize is $10,000. Forty-five $2,000 first-place prizes will be awarded, as determined by the number of votes on the contest website, www.lots2give.com.

"Our school system has been hit hard as a result of the current economy in both our state and county. Schools are asked to do more with less," said Sherri Davis-Viniard, director of Public Relations at the Newton County School System. "This is a unique opportunity for Newton County residents to join forces and support three of our schools without having to spend a dime -- it just takes a click of the mouse."

Alcovy High School, Rocky Plains Elementary School and Veterans Memorial Middle School each made videos and submitted a 50-word essay on why their schools could use additional financial support. The videos are available for viewing on the contest website.

Alcovy's one minute, 30 second video clip pleads for additional funds to support the arts programs at the school, which are undersupplied or disappearing due to lack of funding.

The video states that arts programs have an impact on students, especially those in the at-risk category, and can help them get jobs or get more involved in nonprofit organizations. The school already has the talented students; they just need the supplies, according to the video.

"Our students cannot afford to lose the arts," the video states.

Students and staff joined together to make Rocky Plains' one minute, 30 second clip that asks for more COWs -- Computers On Wheels. The school has more than 950 students with about 225 computers.

The school representatives feel that if they had more mobile computers, they could serve more students and increase academics in all areas.

"We don't want a cow; we need a COW," said one student in the video.

At Veterans Memorial, a couple of students and staff made a 57 second-long video showing the importance of sports programs at their school.

Earlier this year, the Newton County Board of Education decided that parents would be responsible for paying a portion of sports fees in order for their children to participate in middle school sports. The school would like to raise money to help offset those extra costs.

"Sports are a very central part of our school, and we need them," said one student in the video.

The school also could use extra funding for teachers to replace old textbooks that are in poor condition, according to the video.

The public can go to the contest Web site to view the videos and vote up to three times per day, per account until Monday. Winners are expected to be announced on Aug. 14.

"We saw how members of our community turned out in force to support the schools when proposed budget cuts were announced," Viniard said. "Hopefully those same residents will take the opportunity to vote for one or more of our schools. ... This is such a simple way we can work together to support our schools."

The public also can donate $1 to $5 to any school at area Big Lots stores, including the one on U.S. Highway 278 in Covington, until Monday. One hundred percent of the donations will go to the schools.

"Big Lots is excited to extend a helping hand to schools in need of financial support in the communities we service," said CEO Steve Fishman in a press release. "We invite the public to join us in selecting the winners of our Lots2Give video contest and contributing to an important cause."

Big lots is headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, and has 1,368 stores in 47 states.