The UCT Gives Back contest was meant to provide $10,000 to a school with a program for students with developmental or intellectual disabilities – but for Galax Elementary the reward was much greater. A small town in Virginia came together to support the school and created a sense of community that exceeded all expectations.
When Sonia Truitt submitted their video entry for the UCT Gives Back contest, she never imagined they would win the $10,000 prize. But after they were named one of nine finalists in the contest, she began to think, “we could actually win this!” Last week when UCT traveled to Galax to present the check, she along with Linda Hunter, teacher of the program for students with developmental disabilities at Galax Elementary, shared story after story about how the UCT Gives Back contest touched their lives and brought their community together. Not only did the school ask local pizza shops to add a “Vote for Galax” flyer to each pizza that was delivered, but they took business card-size handouts to local restaurants and asked people to scan the unique QR code they created to allow people to vote quickly and easily.
Enter the UCT Local Council 720 from Galax – Tom Heaton took it upon himself to reach out to all UCT councils across the U.S. and Canada to enlist support and votes. “If they didn’t have a dog in the fight, I emailed them” said Heaton of his efforts to add to the Galax vote tally. When it was all over, Galax estimates they received votes from over 30 states and provinces which helped them reach over 60,000 votes in under 6 weeks. Not bad for a community with less than 8,000 people!
As the $10,000 winner of UCT Gives Back, Linda Hunter’s classroom will now be equipped with a Smart Board and plenty of new learning materials. “I want to be careful of how I spend every penny,” says Hunter, “an opportunity like this will never come along again.” But that won’t be true if one local man has anything to say about it – an area resident was so moved by the program and the awareness raised by the local outreach and media that he offered a gift of $600 to the class.
With so many community members helping to ensure the win for Galax, it’s no wonder that the elementary school auditorium was standing room only last Friday when UCT presented the $10,000 check. The mayor, city council, local police chief and many more were on hand to witness the fruits of their labors.
Galax Elementary Assistant Principal, Sonia Truitt, sums up the impact UCT Gives Back had on their local community in her own words: “Thank you UCT for making dreams come true! I am sure we will never know how many lives and hearts have been touched from this event. Your contest provided GES the opportunity to celebrate the gift of our precious students while at the same time uniting and inspiring communities across the United States. We will never forget this special time!”
UCT Gives Back
The “UCT Gives Back” video contest was launched in the fall of 2012 for U.S. and Canadian schools with programs for individuals with intellectual disabilities or universities with programs to train special education teachers. Nine 2-minute videos were selected as contest finalists and voting for the winning school took place on UCT’s Facebook page. Friendly competition was fierce to the finish on Feb. 15.
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