Youth Corner

Five Elementary Students Shine at All-State Chorus

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TAVARES — Last month a select few elementary school students from Lake County Schools participated in the All-State Chorus, which performed at the 2011 Florida Music Educator's Association Clinic/Conference in Tampa Bay.

More than 200 young musicians selected for the All-State Chorus, including Villages Elementary fourth graders Hannah Berlin and MacKenzie Basile; fifth graders Michael Wresh and Miranda Skorupski; and Treadway Elementary fifth grader Madison Tremarco, had the opportunity to work with nationally-known master clinician and conductor Dr. Ann Small, Professor of Music and Director of Music Education at Stetson University. Michael Wresh and Miranda Skorupski were returning to the All-State Chorus for the second year.

“I am very proud of the musical achievements of these and all our students at Villages Elementary,” said Scott Baltunis, Music Teacher at Villages Elementary. “The All-State Chorus is a very exclusive group, selected by audition from fourth and fifth graders from across Florida. Being represented in this group by four students is a considerable honor; many schools that submit student auditions have none of them selected for the choir. This year is the 10th consecutive year that Villages Elementary has had students chosen for the All-State Chorus.”

From November to January, the students worked hard to learn their music by memory. After rehearsing with Dr. Small on Jan. 13-14, the singers presented their concert on Friday afternoon in the ballroom of the Tampa Bay Convention Center to all of their parents, teachers and guests. Dr. Small is the founder and Director of the University Children's Choir. Having conducted many All-State Choirs, she has an extensive background in choral music. She frequently presents clinics in music education methods and children's choir techniques.

“The concert on Friday showed the great work the students, their teachers and Dr. Smith had done for the past several months,” said Phyllis Anderson, Music Teacher at Treadway Elementary. “Parents, teachers and singers were all thrilled to be part of such a grand experience.”

Students from Lake County Schools prepare for the honor of performing in the All-State Chorus often working additional hours before and after school with their music teachers.

“Tuneful singing is a strong focus of Villages Elementary’s general music program for all grades,” Baltunis said. “Members of Villages Elementary Chorus rehearse two mornings each week before school, beginning on the second day of school. Students, who wish to be candidates for All-State, practice two additional mornings each week, receiving individual and small group coaching on vocal production, pitch accuracy and musical phrasing.”

Villages Elementary thanks the American Legion Post #347, which has helped for many years mitigate the financial burden of its All-State families by providing reimbursement for their hotel expenses.


East Ridge Middle AVID Club gives back to the Community for Valentine’s Day

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CLERMONT — For Valentine’s Day, the East Ridge Middle School AVID Club donated more than 30 pen holders to the senior residents at Superior Assisted Living Center in Clermont.

The AVID Club decorated mini flower pots, filled them with dried rice and stuck a flower pen in the center to add a colorful, yet practical, touch.

“This project was fun to make, and provided a fantastic opportunity for the AVID kids to give back to the community in a special way,” said Kelly Cousineau, AVID Coordinator at East Ridge Middle School.

AVID is a program dedicated to helping students achieve their goals of going to college. At East Ridge Middle School, AVID is offered to seventh and eighth graders.


Sawgrass Bay Elementary welcomes ‘Schoolhouse Rock’

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altCLERMONT — On January 21st, The Winter Park Playhouse and its outreach program R.E.A.C.H. (Relevant Educational Arts for Children) performed “Schoolhouse Rock, Live!” at Sawgrass Bay Elementary.

This musical was partially funded by United Arts of Central Florida and was brought to Sawgrass Bay Elementary for free through a grant for Title I schools. “Schoolhouse Rock Live!” is one of musical theatre’s brightest and most innovative shows. Based on the Emmy Award-winning 1970s cartoon series, “Schoolhouse Rock Live!” uses a wide array of musical styles to teach grammar, math, science, history, social studies and political science.

“The students and teachers loved learning and reviewing through music and hope the group comes back next year,” said Dr. Julio Valle, Principal at Sawgrass Bay Elementary.


Eustis Middle Eighth Graders Exonerate the ‘Groveland Four’ in Mock Trial

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altEUSTIS — Eustis Middle School students recently utilized their research and writing skills to recreate the 1949 “Groveland Four” trial.

This interdisciplinary unit also immersed students in the judicial system, and history of Florida. “Groveland Four” was coined after four black men were convicted by an all-white jury of attacking a woman in Lake County.  Students strived to provide the defendants their 4th, 5th and 14th Amendment rights initially denied them by this State during the Jim Crow era.

Assisting Mary Ellen Griffith-Russo’s writing class was retired Attorney Barbara Hill, of the Teaching Justice Program, who helped students understand the critical importance constitutional rights play in the justice system. She worked closely with the student attorney teams in planning strategies and consulted with them on the responsibilities of other courtroom roles.

Reporter Gary Corsair, author of The Groveland Four: Sad Saga of a Legal Lynching, provided students with some of the primary and secondary resources he had used to research his book. These exposed students to such fascinating documents as a portion of an authentic court transcript typewritten on yellowed 8 ½ x 14 paper and a collection of the original news stories that appeared throughout Central Florida and the United States.

The numerous roles needed to successfully accomplish a mock trial gave most students a chance to participate according to their interest. A team of artists researched and produced the State’s seal and designed and set up the courtroom. Bailiffs called the court sessions to order and photographers and newspaper reporters filled the courtroom.

A racially diverse student jury, who listened closely to testimony and closing arguments, found three of the boys, Walter Irvin, Charles Greenlee and Ernest Thomas not guilty. Charges were dropped against Same Shepherd in line with the defense’s request which cited the prosecutions the lack of evidence and/or witnesses against him.

Perhaps the most important lesson learned is best summed up by the student defense team’s closing argument, written by Jessica Chimento and articulated to the Court by Cheryl Cooke, both eighth graders:

“With no evidence shown, it is obvious that our clients are innocent. This is nothing short of a great injustice. Our clients were wrongly accused not by mistake, but because their skin happens to be darker than ours.”


‘Eat your Veggies’ to become an Easier Sell at Triangle Elementary School

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altMOUNT DORA — Students at Triangle Elementary School will soon have a variety of fresh vegetables fruits to select during lunch thanks to a recent $2,500 grant from the Great American Salad Bar Project.

“Our students look forward to salad bar days,” said Kathy Billar, Principal of Triangle Elementary. “They love the variety of fresh fruits and vegetables our cafeteria staff always prepares for them.”

The project is sponsored by Whole Foods Market and the F3: Food Family Farming Foundation. The award was announced last month, and kits are due to be shipped this month. Triangle Elementary will receive a portable, five-well Cambro salad bar complete with utensils, pan inserts, chilling pads and training tools. Criteria for the award included a school’s commitment and its ability to sustain the program.

Triangle’s students are served salad twice a week. The salad bar will help cafeteria staff meet the nutritional needs of their students, of whom almost 79 percent are on free or reduced lunch. The development team for the grant included Triangle Principal Kathy Billar and Food Service Manager Carol Brewer and Geoff Nordhoff of the Grant Services Department.

Whole Foods Market and Chef Ann Cooper joined forces for a second year to help bring fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and healthy proteins to school lunch programs and raise awareness around healthier school food through a project that funded salad bars for public schools across the country.

From August to September, shoppers at Whole Foods Market donated to the project at the check-out or made a donation online through saladbarproject.org. The salad bars were donated to local schools through a simple online grant process. Whole Foods Market partnered with Cooper’s nonprofit, F3: Food Family Farming Foundation, which administered the process.

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