Yes We Can, all day, at Chester-Upland school

Inquirer staff writer Dan Hardy reports:

At the Toby Farms Elementary School in Delaware County’s Chester-Upland School District, it was all-Obama, and all “Yes We Can,” all day.

At the start of the school day, sixth grade students formed a “Yes We Can” human chain in the school’s parking lot, spelling out the words.

Hallways were decorated with pictures of Obama, surrounded by red, white and blue bunting, under the words “We are Family.”

At an assembly, students, dressed in red, white and blue shirts to honor the day, sang a “Yes We Can” song, along with God Bless America, Lift Every Voice and Sing and the Star Spangled Banner. After the inauguration ceremony, classes engaged in a variety of activities, ranging from building a popsicle stick White House to writing “If I were President” essays and composing “Yes We Can” poems. “Inaugural Ball” student dances were scheduled for the end of the day.

Many of the school’s students saw the Inauguration ceremony streamed through laptop computers and projected on large white boards in the front of their classroom. They clapped and cheered when Obama took the Oath of Office, and throughout his speech.

In one fifth-grade classroom, teacher Stacie Hall-Hardy sought to make the event a teachable moment for her class, all of whom were African Americans. “You will always remember this day, even when you are 60 or 70,” she said. “This is a new day; it brings hope for the people, not just for black people, not just for minorities, but for all the people.” She said that Obama’s message to her students was one of “selflessness; it’s not just about you, but what you can do for other people. Doing something for someone else makes you feel good.”

Many students shared the excitement. “I was happy; I was about to cry a little bit,” said fifth grader Edward Nelson, 11. “It’s good to see, because of all the black violence that has gone on, that someone can stop it.” Nelson also said he hoped Obama can “bring the economy up and help homeless people who don’t have a place” to stay.

Fifth grader Tranieh Womack, also 11, said: “I feel excited … I hope Obama keeps his promise to help our county and make it a better place.”

Patricia Parente-Sofia, the principal of the 540-student school, said she had decided on a whole day of Obama events for the children in order to “do something special, so they can remember this day in history - to remember where they were.” Since Obama’s election, she said, “I see a new brightness on their faces; there is a new attitude. I cry, watching them be so connected to this event. … It’s something I never expected to see in my lifetime.”

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