BELLINGHAM — Whatcom Middle School is the winner of the national NBC School Pride online contest for a new computer lab.
The announcement was made live Wednesday morning, Dec. 1, at Shuksan Middle School, where some former Whatcom students and staff have been relocated while the burned school is rebuilt.
Students in Michael Owens’ seventh-grade class gathered around a laptop and web camera minutes before the 10 a.m. announcement. Camera crews working for NBC filmed former Whatcom and current Shuksan students anxiously staring at a large screen on the wall, waiting for something to happen.
Then the face of Cheryl Hines appeared on the wall.
“It was very difficult to find the winner because we had great schools and a lot of students who deserve it,” the “Curb Your Enthusiasm” actress told the students via webcam. “The winner is ”
She only got through part of “Whatcom” before the classroom erupted into screams and cheers, followed closely by the Whatcom Stomp, a popular clapping and stomping routine.
“It’s such a great honor to even be nominated, but even greater honor to win,” said seventh-grader Sadie Rose Koch, 12.
“This happening is making us stronger,” said seventh-grader Rachel Dorr, 12. “It’s making us more compact and united as a school.”
In all, five schools across the country were vying for 25 computers and $2,500. Whatcom won the contest because it received the most online votes during November.
The computers are expected to arrive next week. Until Whatcom is rebuilt, the computers will be split among Fairhaven Middle School, Geneva Elementary School and Shuksan — the schools where Whatcom students are currently enrolled. When Whatcom reopens, likely by fall 2012, the computers will go to the school.
“We’re spreading the wealth,” Jeff Coulter, planning principal for Whatcom, told Hines during the webcast. “It went viral within the community. It was a big community effort.”
Whatcom PTSA co-presidents Kerrie Zerba and Wendy Albrecht heard about the NBC contest earlier this fall and decided to enter Whatcom. After making it to the finals and seeing the other four schools, most of which are high schools, the Parkview Elementary School teachers didn’t think Whatcom had a chance.
“I’m just thrilled,” said Zerba, who didn’t know the results of the contest until the announcement Wednesday. “I’m so happy for Whatcom; we needed good news so desperately.”
WATCH 'TALK IT UP TV' VIDEO ABOUT THE CONTEST