Kayla Whitaker, a 20-year-old Minnesota college student, has won a spot among 10 supporters who will be with Barack Obama backstage before he accepts the presidential nomination at the Democratic National Convention in Denver next week.

In making the announcement of the contest winners, the Obama campaign said, "The people who make up our movement are of all different ages, races, and backgrounds -- and these folks are no different."

Whitaker, of West Fargo, N.D., attends Minnesota State University, Moorhead.

The campaign describes Whitaker as an "evangelical Christian who credits Barack for her newfound interest in the political process."

Whitaker said she entered an Obama campaign contest, which said that anyone who contributes $5 or more gets a chance to be one of the 10 winners. She sent in $15 and gave herself no change of winning. The contest was illegal in Minnesota until it was modified to not require a donation.

"Well, I had been meaning to donate anyway," Whitaker said this afternoon. "It's not like they're going to pick a college student from North Dakota."

And even after she heard the voice-mail message with the news, "I couldn't believe it. I called the lady back to make sure it wasn't a joke or something."

Whitaker said that she and a guest of her choice leave Aug. 26 on the all-expenses paid trip. Obama is scheduled to accept the nomination two days later.

Last month, the Obama campaign was forced to modify the contest to comply with Minnesota lottery laws.

The campaign was given two choices: voiding the contest in Minnesota and make it clear Minnesotans could not participate in the trip contest, or change the rules so a person could win the trip without donating. An attorney with Obama for America headquarters in Chicago agreed to make the donation optional.

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482