By SHERRY DIGMON
Imagine dozens of second-grade students, each with a hand-held American flag and a Statue of Liberty headpiece. Imagine enthusiastic kids. Then imagine Lady Liberty walking on stage. Well, maybe you can get an inkling of the program presented Friday, September 8, at Rachel Patterson Elementary School. RPES students were joined by second-graders from Huxford Elementary School.
The program was by Liberty Learning Foundation, a non-profit organization which facilitates civics and character programs in K-12. The students are studying the curriculum which includes encouragement to be a good citizen – “Honor a Hero. Become a Hero.”
The highlight was Lady Liberty whose real name is Liberty Enlightening the World.” She talked about her history and her current home on Liberty Island, adjacent to Ellis Island.
“I am the symbol of freedom in the United States of America,” she said. “You are the most important part of our freedom … Having visitors is my favorite thing, and I have about four million visitors a year.”
She also gave some of her physical dimensions – her shoe size is 879.
Throughout the presentation, the message was clear – “Teaching, Inspiring, Empowering The Next Great Generation.”
Administrators on hand were RPES Principal Toya McMillian and Assistant Principal Raquel Davis and HES Principal Leah Fuqua.
Among the guests recognized were Escambia County School Assistant Superintendent George Brown, Mayor Jim Staff, Atmore News Publisher and School Board member Sherry Digmon, State Representative Alan Baker, and Pepsi Cola Bottling Company representative Lucille Matthews.
So how were Rachel Patterson Elementary and Huxford Elementary so fortunate to have this program? RPES Principal Toya McMillian explains: “I actually saw the program first on Facebook at one of my high school classmate’s school. After seeing the program being implemented at her school, I was eager to implement it at our school (RPES). All of this happened last school year, and has been in the making since last March. I researched Liberty Learning Foundation, and found the program online. At that point, it became a goal of mine and was placed on my vision board.
“I reached out to Liberty Learning Foundation via the online email, and I was able to connect with Mrs. Cynthia Green who is the VP of Educational Resources for Liberty Learning. Mrs. Green and I shared several conversations about the program. I literally fell in love with all of the positives that she shared with me about it. I was sold. Then, she broke the news to me. She told me that we had to have a donor to sponsor the program. She asked me to give her a few days, and she would be in touch if she was able to find the sponsorship. After about three days, I received an email stating the following:
‘Great news – we will be providing the Hands-on Liberty Program to your 2nd graders next school year. Anne Lambert who is the Education Director in your area will be in contact with you soon concerning any next steps. We are super excited to be able to bring your students this program.’
“I was elated for the students we serve here at RPES. That’s where the Escambia County Community Alliance comes in. Those amazing organizations made the program possible for us. We are forever grateful for their support of our students and school.
“Mrs. Anne Lambert is my former principal. So, everything just continued to fall into place with bringing the program to Escambia County and to RPES. With my former principal as my contact person, of course, we connected automatically. We immediately set a date to meet about the implementation for this school year, and got everything planned out last year for the roll out this year. So, I’ve been waiting for September 8th literally since last year. When I met with Mrs. Lambert, she asked if she could include Huxford, and of course, I agreed. You know I love Mrs. Fuqua to the bone. In a nutshell, that’s how we got Liberty Learning Foundation to RPES. I hope we are able to continue this partnership with them for many years to come. We will have another celebration with them on December 14th. I know that program will be just as awesome as the last one.”
Donors are Alabama Department of Education, Alabama Power, AlaTrade Foods, Alfa, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama, Regions Bank, Screentech, Georgia-Pacific Packaging and Cellulose – Brewton, and Poarch Creek Indians.