Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Who knew two paragraphs could lead to so much?
Thursday, Newington Elementary School received a $50,000 surprise, courtesy of Ellen DeGeneres– who had already helped two Newington teachers with a new car and a trip to Australia – and Skype, who donated the $50,000.
It all started as something of a lark back in February when second grade teacher Brad Emerton entered a contest sponsored by “Ellen,” the Ellen DeGeneres show. His objective: to write two paragraphs explaining why he should receive a trip to Australia.
As it turned out, his two paragraphs were quite convincing: he and his fiancÚ, Jennifer Balyeat, also a teacher at Newington, are getting married in April and have been working extra jobs, scrimping, and saving to pay for their wedding. In fact, he had sold his car to buy her ring and to help them move to Summerville from Florida.
DeGeneres was obviously touched; she invited them on the show, where she surprised them not only with a new Toyota Rav 4 – which would replace the 2000 Chevrolet Cavalier Brad sold – but presented them with a $1,000 check from Shutterfly for wedding pictures and the trip to Australia for their honeymoon.
DeGeneres also found out in the conversation with Balyeat and Emerton that Newington Elementary School is a Title 1 school, meaning a large percentage of the students are underprivileged and receive free or reduced lunch. DeGeneres also learned that the two regularly go above and beyond in their efforts to provide for their students, often buying supplies out of their own pockets and generally doing all they can to make sure their students receive an optimal education.
So on Thursday, March 7, Brad, Jennifer, NES Principal Camilla Groome, and a select group of students stayed at school for a pizza party and to Skype with Ellen DeGeneres for another edition of the Ellen show.
Or so they thought.
As the Skype session started, DeGeneres said that she was having some trouble receiving the Newington group.
Seconds later, one of her producers – along with a camera crew – entered the room at Newington carrying a basket of school supplies and a check from Skype for $50,000.
“There are no words – I was just absolutely stunned,” Groome said. “How do you respond to that? We are just so grateful – and so overwhelmed.”
The only catch was that they had to keep it a secret until the show aired locally, which turned out to be the next day, Friday March 8, at 4 p.m.
Friday afternoon teachers and staff from Newington gathered at Montreux to watch the show.
“It was nice to see it today – you couldn’t really hear it last night,” noted NES Title I Facilitator Alison Waring. “It made it even more meaningful to me, and of course, the children will never forget it. They were so excited – they stayed in school for more than 12 hours.”
While Groome said decisions have yet to be made about how best to spend the $50,000, she suspects some of it will go toward computer/IT equipment. She also said she plans to get input from staff, teachers, and students.
“We’ve had some input already, of course,” she said with a chuckle. “One of the children suggested we get a pony.”