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Secret Service agent visits Sewickley Academy students

| Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013, 8:24 p.m.
Sewickley Herald
Secret Service agent Joe Mele vists Sewickley Academy first-graders to talk about his job as part of their study unit about detectives Friday, Feb. 22, 2013. Kristina Serafini | Sewickley Herald
Sewickley Herald
Sewickley Academy's lower school is reflected on the hood of an armored car as first-grade students, from left, Joey Wateska, Coop Wentz and Will Manning take a look at the vehicle during a visit from Secret Service agent Joe Mele (not pictured) as part of the students' study unit about detectives Friday, Feb. 22, 2013. Kristina Serafini | Sewickley Herald
Sewickley Herald
Sewickley Academy first-grader Andrew Park crouches down while holding an American flag as he and classmates wait for other classmates pretending to be Secret Service agents enter the room. During a visit from real-life agent Joe Mele, students re-enacted a presidental visit. Mele's visit to Sewickley Academy was as part of the students' study unit about detectives Friday, Feb. 22, 2013. Kristina Serafini | Sewickley Herald
Sewickley Herald
Students wave flags and cheer as classmates pretending to be Secret Service agents and the President enter the classroom during a visit from real-life agent Joe Mele (not pictured) aspart of the students' study unit about detectives Friday, Feb. 22, 2013. Kristina Serafini | Sewickley Herald
Sewickley Herald
Sewickley Academy first-graders Tucker Garvey, at left, and Cait Donohue pretend to protect the President, played by teacher Jerilyn Scott (in the window), as Secret Service agents during a visit from real-life agent Joe Mele (not pictured). Mele visited the school and brought the armored car as part of the students' study unit on detectives. Kristina Serafini | Sewickley Herald
Sewickley Herald
Sewickley Academy first-grader Max Hurray makes a silly face as he, pretending to be a Secret Service agent, holds the door open for the 'President' during a visit from real-life agent Joe Mele (not pictured) as part of the students' study unti on detectives Friday, Feb. 22, 2013. Kristina Serafini | Sewickley Herald
Sewickley Herald
Secret Service agent Joe Mele is seen through a window in Kelly Gary's first-grade class at Sewickley Academy Friday, Feb. 22, 2013. Mele visited the class as part of the students' study unit about detectives. Kristina Serafini | Sewickley Herald

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 kserafini@tribweb.com.

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