Highcliff hosts Tribute Ceremony to honor special people

| Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012, 9:01 p.m.

In just one hour, students from Highcliff Elementary School created some very happy hearts.

During the annual Tribute Ceremony, parents, siblings, other family members and a baby sitter were honored, as fifth-graders read compositions about special people who had brought inspiration into their young lives.

The tradition began 17 years ago when Karen Bordt and Paul Parulo, now retired from the North Hills School District, discovered the idea and took it into their classrooms.

When the program started, the children's words were shared with each other in the library, usually days before Thanksgiving. But for some years now, the children's role models have been invited to the school for a public tribute. This year, 80 fifth-graders took part in two evenings of sharing and tears in November.

Fifth-grade teachers Amy Creighan, Mark Kline and Dave Lapp guided their classes through a month-long writers workshop.

Students begin by finding three qualities that make their special people shine.

Words such as “responsible,” “creative,” “athletic,” “cheerful,” “self-sufficient” and many others were heard as the children read. These qualities also were projected on a screen with a photo of the honoree as each child introduced the subject of his or her composition.

Lapp, 53, of West Deer Township, has taught in the district for 22 years and has been involved with the project for about 13. In that time, he said, he has seen honorees break down as their stories were told, but never the students — until this year.

“It wasn't that hard to pick my person,” said Lucy Carroll, 11, of Ross Township.

Her choice was her former baby sitter, Jacqueline Berrie. Berrie was her baby sitter for four years.

Lucy described Berry as “joyful, witty and creative.”

“She taught me to play ‘Go Fish' in French,” Lucy said.

Berrie was surprised when she first learned of her honor, and Lucy surprised herself when tears started to flow during her presentation.

“It was nerves,” she said, “and the words were touching.”

Luke Kutzer, 11, of West View picked his father, Michael, and described him as “hardworking, resourceful and responsible.”

“He buys groceries, so I don't starve to death,” the boy said.

When nervousness got the better of him, a hug and big sigh calmed him down so he could finish his essay at the microphone.

On the way home from the program, Luke said, he and his father just talked about regular things. But Luke learned that his father's office at the Buncher Co. now would be decorated with the honor certificate and the star he created.

“That makes me feel special,” Luke said.

Sabrina Teetzel, 12, of Ross Township, picked Betty Mazza, her grandmother.

Not only was the woman applauded for her macaroni and cheese recipe, Mazza was praised for being “generous, helpful and mannerly.”

“It was easy to tell,” Sabrina said about sharing her feelings.

Grandma's hug made the girl smile.

As they headed home, Mazza told her granddaughter how good her composition was and how happy she was to be honored.

“She really liked it,” Sabrina said.

The youngest honoree hasn't had his first birthday yet. Trilby Pollaro, 10, of Ross Township chose her 9-month-old brother, Ryan McPolland, because he is “lovable, energetic and cheerful.”

The child didn't seem to mind his brief time in the spotlight at all.

That night, many little things were honored, such as cheering at a hockey game, having desserts at the cupcake shop, enjoying special outings with an aunt who lives in New York City or being reminded “to brush my teeth, so I don't get a cavity,” as Jacob Smith 11, of Ross Township, said of his mother, Jeannette.

Cade Gallagher, 11, of Ross Township, summed up an all-encompassing attribute, one to which many in the audience could relate. His father, Rick, Cade said, “loves his whole family more than anything else in the world.”

Dona S. Dreeland is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6353 or ddreeland@tribweb.com.

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