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George Washington students recognized for historic figure profiles

| Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013, 7:12 a.m.
George Washington Elementary third-graders, from left, Selina Rubero, Ivonna Wilder, Raina McIntosh and Calise Johnson were among first-place winners in a black history program. Alexis Rodriguez is not pictured. Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News

In a PTO-sponsored Black History Month program, George Washington Elementary students were recognized for their profiles of historic figures.

A breakfast and awards ceremony took place for students who earned first-, second- and third-place prizes in the school's five third-grade classrooms.

First-place winners were Calise Johnson, Raina McIntosh, Ivonna Wilder, Alexis Rodriguez and Selina Rubero. Second-place students were Grace Walker, Ta'Taneshia Cargile, Emma Francis, Amya Webb and Natasha Cooke. Third-place students were Aaliyah Fountain, Bryce Kifer, Chance Wojtaszek, Xavier Kelly and Mariah Cobbs.

Principal Paul Sweda explained the McKeesport Area curriculum includes project-based learning and said the black history profiles are examples of such assignments. Students chose individuals such as Martin Luther King Jr., Harriet Tubman, Rosa Park and Jackie Robinson; they researched their choice and compiled biographical information and accomplishments.

“As I reviewed these projects, I saw that every one of them is excellent,” Sweda told students. “We want to make sure everyone is recognized for great achievements, and that's part of what Black History Month is about.”

The principal said elementary programs are intended to teach children they can be anything they want in life.

“Every child in this room has potential to be our next leaders, our next presidents, our next pioneers,” he said.

The PTO welcomed Dr. Robin Sims of McKeesport Family Health Center and her daughter Melessie Clark, who was named Miss Pennsylvania Teen Queen in September.

The mother-daughter team encouraged students to read, do well in school and dream big.

“Fifty years ago, I was sitting in your seat and I was dreaming big,” Sims said. “In third grade, I didn't know I wanted to be a doctor. My favorite place to go was the library, because I would read about different places in books and imagine myself there.”

Sims told students education is powerful and knowledge inspires goals.

“She gave us one word that, at the students' age, is very big,” Sweda said. “Attitude. You have to have a positive attitude. There will be setbacks, but that one word will give you the support you need.”

Jennifer R. Vertullo is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1956, or jvertullo@tribweb.com.

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