When students in the Marcus Whitman school district in rural Ontario County started collecting pennies for a charity fundraiser last fall, Justin Bieber was just another Donnie Klang.
A concert by Klang was the prize last year when Honeoye Falls-Lima High School won 98PXY’s High School Challenge and Marcus Whitman came in second. Since then, Klang has faded into pop-star oblivion while Bieber has skyrocketed to fame.
This year, Marcus Whitman edged Honeoye Falls-Lima in the contest and Bieber, fresh from an appearance on Saturday Night Live and with a No. 2 album on the Billboard 200 chart, will perform this week for students in the 1,500-student district in Gorham.
“I think at the time when the kids were bringing in the pennies, Justin Bieber wasn’t Justin Bieber. Now, all of sudden, he’s huge,” said Honeoye Falls-Lima High School principal James Nelson.
In the fall, before Bieber struck it big, the possibility of him coming to the school wasn’t a very big motivator for Marcus Whitman students.
“It’s a good thing we won this year and not last year,” said Jody McLaughlin, a social studies teacher whose leadership-in-action class spearheaded the fundraising campaign.
Marcus Whitman students collected more than $3,000 for the contest to benefit the Hillside Family of Agencies. McLaughlin said officials at radio station WPXY-FM (97.9), which sponsored the contest, don’t want the district to reveal what day Bieber will be at the school to avoid attracting crowds of spectators.
“We’re in the process of making a variety of posters and banners that we’re going to hang up for him,” McLaughlin said.
But the 16-year-old Canadian heartthrob, who is expected to put on a one-hour show, won’t see the greetings until he gets inside the school because district officials are worried signs outside will attract too much attention.
Marcus Whitman students found out they won the contest in December.
“Each day it gets closer it’s more and more exciting. Back in December, people were really excited and it keeps getting more so, particularly among the girls. They are very excited,” said McLaughlin.
Then he added: “I’m probably just as excited as them.”