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Miss America offering character education to students

| Sunday, Feb. 4, 2001

If the students at McMurray Elementary School sing 'There She Is, Miss America' this week, they won't be kidding.

Miss America 2001 Angela Perez Baraquio will speak at a pupil assembly at the elementary school on Thursday afternoon, and will talk to the public at 8 p.m. Thursday in the auditorium of the Peters Township Middle School.

Baraquio, 24, a native of Honolulu who holds a bachelor's degree in elementary education from the University of Hawaii-Manoa, will talk about her platform, 'Character in the Classroom: Teaching Values, Valuing Teachers.' She was invited by the township's Character Counts Committee, an organization formed to emphasize character education in schools and at home.

The odyssey bringing Miss America to Peters Township began on the night of the pageant last fall. Robert Freado, principal of McMurray Elementary School and a member of the committee, was watching the pageant with his wife, Laurie.

Watching the Miss America Pageant, broadcast every fall from Atlantic City, N.J., is an annual event in the Freado household. Laurie Freado - born Laurie Hixenbaugh in Belle Vernon - was Miss Pennsylvania from 1982-83.

The Freados listened to Baraquio talk about her platform, and it struck a chord with Robert Freado, who wrote his doctoral dissertation on character education.

He said it would be nice if Baraquio visited Peters to talk about character education, but he didn't really think about it until winter break for the district, when he called The Miss America Organization. He submitted a request in writing, and the organization proposed a date.

'Things moved quickly after that,' Freado said about the arrangements to bring Baraquio to Peters.

The Character Counts Committee is an outgrowth of the township's Community Awareness Committee, which itself grew out of a drug and alcohol group formed in schools.

The committee kicked off last June, during the township's Community Day. It has sponsored a roundtable discussion in October about youth sports, called 'Are They Having Fun Yet,' and invited John Murray, president of Duquesne University, to speak in November about living a virtuous life.

Vince Guerrieri can be reached at vguerrieri@tribweb.com or at (412) 306-4533.

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