Pau-Wa-Lu wins $10,000 challenge |

Pau-Wa-Lu wins $10,000 challenge

by Caryn Haller
Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School ninth-grade video production students Lindsey Salie and Courtney Campbell, seated, with special education teacher Jennifer Worthington, art teacher Cindy Schnaare, English teacher Kris Erb, head secretary Sharon Des Jardins and Principal Keith Lewis celebrate winning the contest.
Shannon Litz | The Record-Courier

After many tense hours of waiting, it was confirmed Tuesday night that Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School had won the $10,000 Dolan Auto Group school upgrade challenge.

Before official results could be announced an audit of the voting needed to completed.

“I was probably more nervous about the fact that I had prematurely proclaimed us the winners at 12:01 a.m. on Monday morning when we were ahead in votes at the end of the contest. I didn’t realize there was an audit of the voting, so I was nervous about having egg on my face for declaring us the winner before it was official,” Principal Keith Lewis said. “I will say that I’m glad my head secretary, Sharon Des Jardins, doesn’t have access to Facebook at school. If so, part of the $10,000 would have been spent purchasing her a new keyboard because she would have ruined hers by hitting the refresh button checking for the official results every 10 seconds on Tuesday.”

Lewis said he didn’t know what the final vote count was, but at 11:59:59 p.m. Sunday, the count was 3,329 votes to 3,270 votes for Billinghurst Middle School in Reno

“I was obviously very excited that we won, as I’m a very competitive person. I couldn’t wait to go to school the following morning because I knew how excited the students and staff would be,” he said. “Probably the greatest emotion I felt was simply pride; I’m extremely proud to have the opportunity to be the principal and lead such incredible students, parents, and the wonderful staff of Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School. I’m also proud to live in the Carson Valley where we rally time and time again to support people and families in need, and to support each other to win contests as a community.”

With the awarded money Pau-Wa-Lu will replace deteriorated outdoor lunch area benches and tables.

“The current tables and benches are 20 years old. They are steel tables and benches covered in a rubber coating. Unfortunately, after 20 years of going through cold winters and hot summers, the rubber coating has cracked and they have started to rust,” Lewis said. “In addition, our tables and benches take quite a beating during the weekends and at night. Unfortunately, kids come into the courtyard and use them for skateboarding tricks, etc. They have been significantly bent to the point where they actually bow in the middle.”

Lewis credits the win to current and former students who he said, “played a huge role in our success.”

“We provided our students with an opportunity to vote each day during school. At the beginning of the week, there was limited interest. However, as the contest went on, their excitement seemed to increase, and by March 21, I had a list of 115 students who wanted me to email them on Saturday and Sunday to remind them to vote,” he added. “I know they did vote, because after each email I sent, I would see almost an immediate spike in voting. I also know they were working very hard on Facebook to get other students and their families to vote.”

The competition was close especially Sunday when the school fell behind by 50 votes with about three hours left in the contest.

“It seemed like everyone I knew was posting on Facebook asking people to get involved and vote,” Lewis said. “Our votes came from across the world. I know of people in Ireland voting for us, my sister in Alaska was working as hard as I was trying to secure votes from her friends and the friends of her children.”

Lewis said this will probably not be the last contest Pau-Wa-Lu enters.

“With Sharon as my head secretary, I’m pretty sure this will not be the last contest we enter. She is used to looking for different ways to fund programs and projects, so I know she will continue to look for future opportunities,” Lewis said. “Frankly, I was completely exhausted; something that wasn’t helped by the fact I didn’t get to vote until 11:50 p.m. on March 21. I certainly know my wife, Nicole, was glad when the contest was over, because she was tired of hearing about the contest and watching me act like a political poll watcher.”

Other winners included Fernley Elementary School and Sparks High School.

For more information, rules and requirements for School Upgrade and on Dolan Auto Group, visit