October 23, 2014
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Unique museum at Immaculate Conception celebrates Black History Month
RICH HERITAGE: Thalia Spardello, left, and Mia Ducharme stand in front of the display they created about famous African American singer Marian Anderson for last Thursday’s Black Heritage Museum at Immaculate Conception Catholic Regional School in Cranston.

After studying about civil rights and influential African Americans for the past month, the fourth-graders at Immaculate Conception Catholic Regional School in Cranston turned the classrooms and corridors in the regional school into an extraordinary, one-night museum last Thursday evening.

Grandparents, proud moms and dads and many family members and friends walked from display to display in total amazement, especially at the in-depth work the fourth-graders put into each display.

There was a display about Oprah Winfrey, the famous talk show host, created by Grace Allard and Caroline Quirk. There was another display dedicated to Shirley Chisholm, the first African American elected to Congress and first woman to run for president, by Julia Caldeira.

Students Julia D’Amico and Olivia Sarro-Hale produced a masterful display, replete with skates, dedicated to Debi Thomas, the first African American Olympic figure skating medalist.

Harrison Mahoney put together a special exhibit featuring Thurgood Marshall, the first African American Supreme Court justice, and Adriana Macera received rave reviews for her display on Fannie Jackson Coppin, an educational advocate who was the first African American woman to receive a college degree.

People were also amazed at the extensive work Logan Palumbo did on Charles Drew, a doctor and inventor of the nation’s blood banks.

“We’re so proud of all our students,” said Judy McCusker, a veteran fourth grade teacher who teamed with new faculty member Colleen Bode for the study as part of Black History Month. “What was special is that each student selected his or her subject matter.”

McCusker, who is well known for developing unique creativity projects, added, “Colleen is a new and outstanding teacher. We shared each and every detail of this special project.”

Even visiting teachers, some of which had students at the regional Catholic school, were particularly impressed with the way each of the fourth-graders explained their respective projects to adults.

“These kids did such an incredible job,” said Patricia Mellor, a teacher at Aldrich Junior High School in Warwick whose son Brennan teamed with Dylan Leung for an interesting exhibit about Malcolm X. “And the way they each spoke to adults was very impressive.”

Colin Naughton had everything from a globe to various photographs to help share his wealth of knowledge about Carl Brashear, the first African American U.S. Navy diver.

The same held true for Sofia Rose, who developed her display in honor of Mae Jemison, the fist female African American astronaut; Chaz Storey, who picked “Roots” writer Alex Haley for his project; and Elijah Nyahkoon, whose subject was James McCune Smith, the first African American doctor.

While the proud parents and their students were fielding numerous well-wishes, Immaculate School Principal Brian Cordeiro, whose roots go back to Bishop Hendricken High School, stood with McCusker and Bode smiling.

“This was special,” Cordeiro said in a soft tone of voice. “I was very impressed at the level of preparation the kids had, their planning and representing each topic. These kids had an enthusiasm that was so infectious.”

Cordeiro, who helped McCusker and Bode as the night’s host, said, “Many parents told me they were impressed not only by what the students displayed but the outstanding creativity of their exhibits.”

As the enthusiastic band of visitors was leaving the school, Cordeiro added, “I’m also very proud that we were able to celebrate Black History Month in such a unique way. This will certainly help all of us in the school become aware of the great men and women of black culture and history who helped transform the world for all of us.”

Other African Americans featured in the students’ projects were: Ruby Bridges, activist for integration in schools, by Abigail Jennings and Caitlin Brown; Maya Angelou, poet and motivational speaker, by Dylana Deignan and Caroline Cloxton; Duke Ellington, jazz musician, by Robert Jerez; Louis Armstrong, jazz musician, by Ronin Kiekbusch; and Jackie Robinson, first African American Major League Baseball player, by Connor Kennedy and Kyle Thompson.

Also, Hank Aaron, first African American to break MLB home run record by Christopher Lee and Owen Smith; Michelle Obama, first African American first lady and a driving force behind promoting healthy lifestyles for children, by Michelle Lee and Jasmine Konow; and Barack Obama, first African American U.S. president, by Gustavo Londono and William Sampson.

Also, Wilma Rudolph, first African American female track star, by Sabrina Marrocco and Julianna Vieira; Rosa Parks, by Alessia Provost and Guilanna Desmarais; Marian Anderson, famous singer, by Thalia Spardello and Mia Ducharme; Tuskegee Airmen, first African American fighter pilots, by Tyler Truesdell and Christian Tucker; Booker T. Washington, by Jake Latek; Colin Powell, first African American secretary of state, by Brady McGloin and Anthony Landi; and Frederick Douglass, by Harrison Braica.

Also, Elizabeth Eckford, educational advocate, by Emma Diko; George Washington Carver, scientist, by Thomas Missirlis; and Matthew Henson, first African American explorer to the North Pole, by Matthew Aceto.


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