Pitching in for His Kids: Principal Sleeps in Tent to Win School $500,000

Who says high school isn't a popularity contest?

By Roseanne Colletti
|  Friday, Aug 27, 2010  |  Updated 8:49 AM EDT
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Will he make the grade.

Will he make the grade.

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The tent outside East Side Community High School is about the size of a Manhattan closet, and principal Mark Federman has already spent several nights inside.

Federman is camping out on this lower Manhattan sidewalk to publicize his school's campaign to win a share of $10 million.

"It's an online contest and one of the things we're short on here is technology and that makes it hard to compete," said Federman. This face-off on Facebook is sponsored by Kohl's Cares, a charity connected to the deparment store chain, and promises half a million dollars apiece to the 20 schools with the most votes.

"It rained the last three nights and that wasn't much fun," said Federman, who pointed out that his kitchen is two bananas, his library is a book, and his shower is a bottle of water.

"I thought Mr. Federman was crazy, but he will do anything to help his students,"said Justin Garrigo, a 16-year-old junior.

The neighborhood public school, which houses grades 6 through 12, has launched a traditional grassroots campaign of flyers and phone calls to motivate locals to log on and vote. Students and parents have also pitched in by putting up companion tents in preparation for a group camp-out.

"I've never gone camping before, so this should be interesting," offered Nikel Dixon, a parent.

And the publicity stunt seems to be working -- the school has jumped from a ranking of less than 100 to the top 50 in less than a week. If East Side campaigns its way into the final list of 20, students already have ideas where they'd spend the winnings.

"I think we should use the money for a gym,since we don't have a real one," said 14-year-old Jenise Colon, a student at East Side.

"Books, because we all like to read," said 13-year-old Nadya Santos, a 7th grader there.

The contest is open to public and private schools. Voters can cast their ballots at www.facebook.com/kohls or find the link on their school site such as www.eschs.org for East Side supporters.The polls close September 3.

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