Snow day doesn’t keep Knox students from celebrating inauguration

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Maggie Blackwell
The staff at Knox Middle School had a big Inauguration Day planned for students Tuesday. No one anticipated school might be closed due to snow.
Undaunted, Knox principal Gerald MoragneEl telephoned a Connect-Ed message to all Knox parents. We will celebrate on Wednesday, the message said. Please have your students prepare and remember to dress up.
On Wednesday, students streaming into the school did not wear their customary khakis and polos. Instead, they were dressed as if for church. They had an inauguration to attend ó even if it were not being shown live on TV, as planned. They watched videos of President Barack Obama’s inauguration, the parade, even a few moments of the fancy dances.
“We’ve worked so hard for this day,” social studies teacher Melissa Rivers said. “All eighth-grade students have researched past presidents’ inaugural addresses and memorized a portion of them.” The teachers worked to give students an understanding of history, including the issues faced by various presidents.
Teachers also familiarized students with the procedure of inauguration. They have studied the election process since fall.
“My goal was for them to dress today as if we were actually going to the inauguration. We celebrated in our classroom with the favorite foods of both President Obama and Vice President Biden. The classrooms were as close as possible to ballrooms, with tablecloths and heavy hors d’oeuvres,” Rivers said.
“I know they will view this inauguration differently than they did four years ago; they are more informed,” she continued. “Because they understood what was going on, they looked forward to it more.”
Rivers, in her seventh year of teaching, teamed with Knox’s other eighth-grade social studies teacher, Lisa Czarnocki, to develop the activities.
Caroline Graham, an honor roll student and tennis player, was pleased with the event. “This has been an educational experience. The first black president is something we are lucky to see in our lifetime ó something we can tell our grandchildren about.”
Classmate Alana James agreed. “It was really fun. We watched the video this morning and discussed it. Obama’s speech was strong. Elizabeth Alexander gave a really good poem … and I liked dressing up.”
Cristo Bautista, 14, didn’t much care about dressing up. “Now that we got a new president, he might do a lot of good stuff, make the economy better, help immigration, even reduce violence. I feel good about him.”
La’Andre Rorie, 13, is a cheerleader and honor roll student. “Over the years, there have been 43 presidents, and not one of them was African-American. Martin Luther King had a dream that one day, African-Americans would do the same things as white people. Yesterday his dream came true.”
Pariis Mooney, sporting a glittery Obama shirt, was excited to share his adventures traveling to the real swearing-in Tuesday.
“I went to the inauguration. It was cold! There were a lot of people. When I first got in the gate at 7:30 a.m., I was 60 feet from the Capitol steps. I could see the flags and seats. I saw John McCain,” Mooney said.
“It was great ó an experience, history in the making, life changing! I can tell my kids about this one day,” he said.
“No matter what color Obama is, he is our president, and he will do a good job.”
Knox students held a mock election in November. The winner of that election was Barack Obama.