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The Daily Tar Heel

School competes for funds

Pepsi could help build playground

Kendra Kulberg runs across the ice in front of the monkey bars, which the children are not allowed to use. Last week ice severely limited the area children could play in during recess.
Kendra Kulberg runs across the ice in front of the monkey bars, which the children are not allowed to use. Last week ice severely limited the area children could play in during recess.

Third-grader Ben Kulberg and his friends struggle to entertain themselves during recess.

That’s because state budget cuts have left Hillsborough’s Grady A. Brown Elementary School’s playground low on the list of priorities for funding.

“There’s nothing to do on it,” Ben said. “It’s an open field. It’s just nothing.”

To remedy this, the PTA decided last June to build a playground during the next two years. But a $50,000 grant from the Pepsi Refresh Project could have the playground ready in five months.

“It would be a small miracle,” Principal Fay Jones said.

The school submitted a proposal to the project in early December. Each month, people vote online for the top 10 ideas of the pool, which will receive $50,000 each.

Grady Brown is competing with hundreds of other projects, ranging from scholarships to a sanctuary for Labradors. The school reached the top 40 Monday night and has until Jan. 31 to crack the top 10.

Jones said the entire school has gotten involved, with faculty and staff wearing buttons designed around the Pepsi logo to remind people to vote every day.

“Mainly, this has been the grassroots effort of reaching out to all of our personal contacts,” Jones said.

“But we need everybody in Hillsborough and all of Orange County to help us.”

The school’s push for the Pepsi playground money hasn’t been without obstacles.

None of the school’s students meet the 13-year-old age requirement to vote. Moreover, Jones said the school has to compete with The Progressive Slate, which coordinates groups to vote for each other to increase their chances of winning.

“There’s about six or seven grants that are kind of in a little alliance coalition together voting for one another, and they’re kind of in the top ten,” Jones said.

The PTA has already raised about $7,000, including $1,750 from the Just Push Play initiative, $1,000 from the Hillsborough Exchange Club, $1,000 from the school’s general budget, $1,000 from the PTA and more than $3,000 from Orange County.

Ben’s mother, PTA member Rachel Kulberg, said losing the Pepsi money would complicate but not derail the school’s plans.

“If this Pepsi grant came in, we’ve already talked to builders, they could have it in by June,” she said. “But if we have to just continue to fundraise, we might just try to do things in installments.”

Fifth-grade teacher Beth Quick said her class has noticed a link between their academic performance and level of physical activity.

“They were even saying, ‘If you’re physically active you feel better and if you feel better you learn better,’” Quick said.

Quick said she used the campaign to teach her 5th graders persuasive essay writing. Her students wrote that recess is their chance to mingle with students in other classes, resolve interpersonal conflicts and make choices for themselves.

“We want them to be creative in their thinking outside without us doing the leading,” Quick said. “This is their time for that.”

Contact the City Editor at city@dailytarheel.com.

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