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County second-graders kick off Super Citizen program

About 350 second-graders from the county schools attended the kick-off event for Liberty Learning Foundation’s Hands on Learning program to learn about the Statue of Liberty, what a citizen is and what it means to be a “super citizen.”

The kick-off program was held in the Belgreen High School auditorium at noon Thursday.

According to its website, the Liberty Learning Foundation describes itself as providing civic education programs and emotionally-charged live experiences to inspire and empower the “Next Great Americans.”

Tahauny Cleghorn as Lady “Libby” Liberty led the event. She shared facts about the Statue of Liberty, including the official name, Liberty Enlightening the World, and what “liberty” means.

“I am a symbol of freedom in the United States of America,” said Libby. “That’s why I decided to come down off my pedestal and go on the Next Great Americans tour – so I can visit students across the country because I want to spread the word about our history, about our freedom, and to tell you how you are already the most important part of our future.”

A video montage played with clips from Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, President John F. Kennedy’s “ask not” comment and Neil Armstrong’s “one small step” statement. At different points in the program, when prompted, students cheered, clapped and chanted “liberty,” “freedom,” and “USA.”

“I think this is a great program for our students,” said Belgreen Principal Megean Berryman. “It’s informational and entertaining, and the students are always very attentive and engaged. They enjoy each of these programs, and we are very thankful for the sponsors that make this possible for our students.”

Music played while Libby asked students to imagine being on a ship, having left their homelands, enduring a difficult and long voyage, perhaps being tired and hungry and sick, to finally make it to New York Harbor and feel hopeful upon glimpsing the Statue of Liberty, the symbol of the freedom and opportunity they were so desperately hoping to find.

“People would often clap or cheer or cry out when they saw me,” said Libby. She added that not everyone who came to the United States came of their own choice. “Unfortunately, many people were brought to this country against their will. Native Americans were already in this country. We all have different American stories. Perhaps Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said it best when he said that though ‘we may have all come on different ships, we’re in the same boat now.’”

Libby recited the poem engraved on a plaque affixed to the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, titled “The New Colossus,” written Nov. 2, 1883, by Emma Lazarus. The poem ends with the iconic line, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

“We all share in the same freedoms and bright futures made possible by what I stand for – opportunity, hope and liberty,” said Libby. “You already have the most important title there is: Citizen.”

Jessica Quillen, Northwest Regional Educational Director for the Liberty Learning Foundation, also emphasized the students’ important roles as citizens. She explained that one opportunity to be a good citizen is in the community of the classroom, by “showing each other respect, showing your teacher respect, always doing the right thing, making sure you do your best and working to keep things clean.”

Berryman, along with other local educators, were recognized as Super Citizens. All second-grade teachers from the county schools were asked to come forward and be recognized. Each received a free copy of the first book in the Libby Liberty series, “In Search of Super Citizens.”

Jasper Barnette of Red Bay and Luke Hill of Phil Campbell led their fellow students in the Pledge of Allegiance.