Randy Whiteside, (left), dressed as President Obama, Nicholas Brown as Abraham Lincoln, Patrick Wauters as Lyndon Johnson, and Christopher Taylor as Carter G. Woodson, the founder of Black History Month, all look at the class projects they did during the open house at St. Josephs Catholic School. (Special to the Commercial/William Harvey)
The staff and students of St. Joseph Catholic School in Pine Bluff hosted an open house Tuesday evening for parents, alumni and friends of the school, complete with brightly colored beads in recognition of Mardi Gras. The theme for the event was “A Journey Back.”
St. Joseph principal Alexandra Pritchett said that the event is the first of what is hoped will become an annual event intended to show off student accomplishments in a fun atmosphere.
“It is important to show the success of our students and teachers and celebrate what we have done so far this year,” Pritchett said. “We came up with the theme A Journey Back because we wanted our former students, parents and friends to come back and see the school and see what we are doing.”
The two-hour open house had its first half devoted to special presentations going on in the various classrooms while the second hour moved the action to the school’s gymnasium where a basketball season homecoming court was announced and an open-invitation basketball game was held.
“We didn’t want to structure it too much because we wanted things to be casual and relaxed for everyone,” Pritchett said.
Living wax museum
The fifth- and sixth-grade classroom of Della Lee was filled with notable figures including Martin Luther King Jr., Condoleeza Rice and Joe Biden for the open house.
Actually, the room was filled with Lee’s students, who were each assigned a historical figure to research in preparation for the night’s presentations.
The students dressed as the historical figure they had been assigned, then gave a brief presentation posing as that person and explaining what they had accomplished in their lives. Each student constructed a tri-fold display containing information about their alter ego that they set up next to them.
Sixth-grader Alyssa Alley*** portrayed former U.S. Secretary of State Rice.
“I spoke about Condoleeza Rice and how she came to accomplish what she did,” Alley said. “She was a genius. She went to college at the age of 15 and she has a PhD. I enjoyed portraying her tonight.”
Alley’s mother, Sherri Bell, was proud of her daughter and explained the novel way that each student’s presentation began.
“She spent a lot of time working on this,” Bell said. “Each student has a little round sticker on their clothes that says ‘press me.’ So when they started they were in a froze pose like a wax museum and when I pushed the button she began to move and explain who she is portraying.”
Fellow sixth-grader Destiny Lindsey portrayed Oprah Winfrey.
“We used the computer lab to research who we were portraying and put together our displays with our art teacher Miss [Vera] Washington,” Lindsey said.
When asked if she had helped her daughter with the project, Lindsey’s mother, Edna Lindsey, said that the students were required to do all of the work.
“They did all of it here,” she said.
Lee said the idea for the project came from athletic director Nyeisha Aldridge.
“Because it’s Black History Month we wanted them to be able to study outstanding black Americans and outstanding Americans in general,” Lee said.
Clifford Heyer teaches creative writing and explained how his class of juniors is writing a novel.
“We have six students who worked on the book,” Heyer said. “Before they started we outlined the book together and then each of them was assigned a chapter to write. They came up with a science fiction plot that involves Democrats and Republicans and factions within each group that have superpowers. The protagonists of the book are four high school students.”
Several students gave presentations on papers that they had written.
In addition to art, Washington also teaches civics, and wearing that hat she instructed her seniors to portray a historical figure and to prepare an accompanying informational display.
“We had Barack Obama, Malcolm X, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Rosa Parks,” Washington said. “President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1964 into law.”
“The theme of each presentation was the era of the Civil Rights Movement,” Washington said.
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*** This article has been corrected from its original version because of an incorrect name. Click here to view the correction notice.