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Benson, Minn., elementary school wants your vote

BENSON -- Second-grade teacher Roger Ebnet wants to throw a big party for Northside Elementary School and the entire community of Benson, with some help from west central Minnesota and Target.

Northside Elementary was leading the nation Thursday afternoon in a race to get the most votes in the Give with Target program. The Minnesota-based company plans to give away $5 million in the promotion.

A first-place finish means a $10,000 donation and a big party, including celebrities. Some of the big draws would be Academy of Country Music Entertainer of the Year Luke Bryan, Olympic medal winner Gabrielle Douglas, actress and activist Sophia Bush and Green Bay Packers player Donald Driver.

The 4,650 votes Northside had by mid-afternoon Thursday gave it a slim lead over a school in Staten Island, N.Y.

"We want to keep it in rural Minnesota," Ebnet said in a telephone interview Thursday.

Northside came in third in the nation and first in Minnesota a year ago, he said, but the community is aiming higher this year.

Schools also receive a $1 donation from Target for each vote.

"A couple simple clicks, and we get a dollar," he said. The school has been promoting its campaign all over the town, with notices in church bulletins and email and Facebook campaigns.

"The town is kind of buzzing with it," he said. "It's been an exciting time trying to get people to rally around this."

He checks Northside's votes to see where they've originated, and he's seen votes from many states. "A lot of people are jumping on board all over the country."

Individuals are allowed to vote once a week, with a new week starting on Sunday. The promotion will end on Sept. 21 or when Target has distributed the $5 million.

Ebnet said he enjoys seeing the vote total jump each Sunday as the regular voters cast their new votes for the week.

Target's website includes videos from last year's top schools, including Northside. Ebnet said a crew from Hollywood came to Benson to shoot the video last spring. The company paid the school $1,000 and gave gift cards to people who were in the shots, $25 for kids and $50 for adults.

To vote, go to As long as Northside is in the top five, its name will be listed on the leaderboard on the home page.

Here's the link to Target's YouTube video about the school:

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

(320) 214-4340