Nebraska Catholic high school community mobilizes to win $500,000 prize

Volunteers help gather votes at the University of Nebraska's Newman Center in Lincoln.
Volunteers help gather votes at the University of Nebraska's Newman Center in Lincoln.


In an effort to finance a much needed kitchen for their facility, Nebraska's Pius X high school in Lincoln joined forces with the local community to win a nationwide contest for a cash prize of $500,000.

The Catholic high school finished in fourth place in Kohl's Cares online voting contest on Facebook, which donated $500,000 to the 20 schools nationwide receiving the most votes.

Michelle Birkel, development director for the Pius X Foundation and Pius X High School, told CNA in an e-mail on Sept. 23 that the efforts of the community in garnering votes for the school were far reaching and innovative.

“We sent out postcards to all parishioners in the Lincoln Diocese and all pastors helped spread the word and mobilized their parishioners to help out too,” she said. “We were amazed at the enthusiasm and effort from Pius Supports and even complete strangers.”

“Local businesses such as St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Lincoln let us come to their workplace to set up computers for employees to vote,” Birkel added. “Many local businesses offered rewards such as a jeans day for those employees who voted and they also helped spread the word via email to their customers.”

“Last year we received 4 mobile computer labs from some donors. These mobile computer carts can house about 15 laptops per cart. Thanks to our donors and these carts, we were able to take these laptops to colleges in Lincoln and Omaha.”

Traveling to six different colleges, “We had many volunteers who went with us to sign up students to vote for Pius.”

“Also when students came to Pius in August to sign up for lockers and to get their schedule, we set up these mobile computer labs in the cafeteria and had all students who had facebook, sign up,” Birkel said, adding that they also “had elderly people just stop by our school asking for help to vote.”

“I could go on and on with the stories,” she said.

“After the exciting finish, Pius faculty and students waited anxiously for two weeks for Kohl's Cares to review the results and declare them valid,” Birkel recalled. “Principal Tom Korta checked his messages hourly, eagerly anticipating the call.”

“Finally, on September 17th at about 10am, FedEx delivered the letter declaring Pius a winner. We announced this at a Student Assembly/Pep Rally on Friday and to all parents at the Homecoming football game that night.”
Birkel said that the prize money will be used for a much needed kitchen since for years now, the school's food services have been housed across the parking lot in building that is slated to be torn down.

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