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Bright & Brief

May 3, 1990

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) _ Rather than sit home on prom night or settle for some geek she didn’t even like, Twyla Blankenship of Thorne Bay, Alaska, found a date 1,000 miles away.

One of six graduates in the Class of ’90 in her village of 450 residents, she advertised through her advanced English class, using a satellite educational network that links students in 30 school systems nationwide. She said she wanted a date with a sense of humor who also looked good in a tuxedo.

Out of several responses, she picked Dustin Wambeke, a senior and football star in Freeman, about 15 miles southeast of Spokane.

″The funny thing was that all this started out as a joke,″ she said. ″Now that it’s going to happen, well, I’m getting kind of nervous.″

Blankenship has spent $300 on a round-trip ticket for Wambeke, who on Friday will drive to Seattle, fly by jet to Ketchikan, then take a 25-minute ride by float plane to Thorne Bay on the southeastern coast of Prince of Wales Island.

″This is out of my own money, too,″ she said. ″I may have to starve at college, but this is something I wanted to do.″

″I guess I’m kind of adventurous,″ Wambeke said. ″I’m looking at this as an excellent opportunity to meet a nice person and see another part of the country.″

What made the date possible was ″School in the Sky,″ an educational program established four years ago in Spokane. It uses a satellite telecommunications to beam advanced course work to students in remote schools.

The courses, broadcast Mondays through Thursdays, include college-level Japanese, Spanish, calculus and English. Homework is sent by mail or fax to Spokane.

″Kids from small schools tend to think that they’re from the smallest and hickiest places on Earth,″ said Penny Cooper, who teaches advanced English on the network. ″This gives them a chance to talk with others from small towns and discover that maybe they’re not so bad off after all.″

Said Thorn Bay School Principal Mike Walker: ″Little did we know that when we agreed to offer the satellite courses for kids that it could be used as a dating service.″

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LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) - Students who needed $800 to finance a trip to a national science contest couldn’t get the money from the Lafayette Parish School Board. But passing the hat at the meeting netted $500.

The remaining $300 was pledged Thursday morning, letting Edgar Martin Middle School meet its deadline for the National Science Olympiad in Clarion, Pa., said Assistant Principal Cindy Bobbitt.

The school won the state competition last weekend, and the deadline for notifying the national competition organizers whether they were going was Tuesday.

″They extended it two days for us to raise the money and let them know. ... We made it under the wire,″ Bobbitt said.

She said businesses and residents had donated $6,200 since the Lafayette newspaper published an article Tuesday about the deadline, but students needed $7,000 to let organizers know they would compete.

The 15-student team, wearing medals won in New Orleans, went to Wednesday night’s board meeting to ask for help.

Board members gave them a standing ovation, but balked at chipping in $800.

A proposal to give the students $300 also was rejected. An argument among board members ended when one member noted that board policy forbids giving student groups money to pay for trips. A proposal to lend the money was shouted down.

Finally, a teacher in the audience got up and passed the hat, bringing in $500.

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