Secret Service agent visits Sewickley Academy students

| Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013, 8:24 p.m.

Though many Sewickley Academy first-graders couldn't name the current vice president — they concluded it either was George Washington or Abraham Lincoln — they knew immediately that one of the roles of the Secret Service was to protect him and President Obama.

About 28 kids in Kelly Gary's and Jerilyn Scott's classes were treated to a visit from “real-life” Secret Service Agent Joe Mele as part of a study unit about detectives.

Mele, a 13-year Secret Service special agent and the parent of two Sewickley Academy students, has been visiting the school for six years to talk to children about his job investigating financial crimes and protecting current and former national leaders and their families, as well as foreign leaders visiting the United States.

In Gary's caution-tape-lined classroom, Mele passed around counterfeit money and fake credit cards and gave one student the opportunity to try on gear that an agent would wear.

Later, children re-enacted a presidential visit with one student portraying the president, some acting as Secret Service agents and others as spectators waving American flags.

For the first time since visiting the academy, Mele also gave the students an opportunity to explore an armored vehicle.

At the end of the program, he provided students with junior agent certificates.

Mele stressed the importance of being a good citizen.

“If you want to be a Secret Service agent, you need to be a good person and make good decisions,” Mele told the students.

Scott said Mele's annual visit is the perfect culmination of the three-week detective unit.

“(Mele) keeps coming back every year, and his presentation gets better every year,” Scott said.

Gary said Mele's message reinforces everything she tries to teach in her classroom during the unit.

“It goes with everything we're talking about — honor, respect,” she said.

Kristina Serafini is a staff writer and photographer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1405 or

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