President Obama signs Chaney students’ book



Students in Chaney’s Visual and Performing Arts program earned a piece of presidential history.

President Barack Obama signed a copy of a book of poems and

illustrations they helped create during a campaign appearance last fall in Kent. Students saw the signature, along with a letter from the president, for the first time Friday morning.

Tracy Schuler-Vivo, VPA coordinator, brought the book, “A Walk in the Garden,” and letter into a room with a group of seventh-graders for the big event, telling them someone important signed their book. The president also kept a copy.

Yeliza Martinez, 12, guessed President Obama immediately.

“She said it was someone famous, so I thought of the president,” she said.

Yeliza said she was happy when she learned she was right.

The book project was a joint effort between Mill Creek MetroParks’ Fellows Riverside Gardens and Chaney’s VPA.

The students visited the gardens and then worked with Dar Hosta, an award-winning author and illustrator, to compose poems about their experience and create collages depicting what they saw and learned. Hosta was a guest author at the MetroParks’ Book Festival in 2009.

Hosta incorporated the students’ art and literary creations into the book.

The president’s letter thanked the students and Keith Kaiser, Fellows’ horticulture director, for the book.

“If we work together in common purpose to address the challenges of our time, I am confident our Nation will continue to lead in the 21st century,” President Obama wrote.

News that the book reached the president and earned his signature was greeted with whoops and cheers from the students.

“I didn’t know it was possible,” said Terrell Benson, 12.

When Schuler-Vivo said someone important signed the book, Chiray Chew, 12, never imagined it was President Obama.

“I was expecting some famous author, not the president,” Chiray said. “That’s going to be worth something.”

Dajanae Bankston, 13, said it’s more than cool.

“There’s cool,” she said, holding her hand at eye level.

“And then there’s super cool,” Dejanae added, raising her hand over her head.

This was “super cool,” she said.

Samie Winick, a retired city school teacher, worked with Fellows Riverside Gardens and the school to set up the book project. She also hosted a house party last fall for the Obama campaign and gave copies of the book to the president’s field organizer to get the signature.

Tamron Lewis, 12, threw up his arms upon hearing the news.

“It’s amazing that our book got the signature of Barack Obama,” he said.

Javier Colon, 14, agreed.

“It wasn’t expected,” he said.

All of the students, who were sixth-graders when they worked on the book, said their families and friends would be excited and happy to learn of the honor.

Besides Dajanae, Terrell, Chiray, Javier, Tamron and Yeliza, members of the class are Antonio Arlo, Nikyah Beckwith, Sean Bell, Hope Butler, Collin Chance, Aaron Cross, Maniyah Dunn, Silas Elder, Abigail Fonseca, Aphrodite Georgalas, Matthew Graham, Zion Gilmore, Marquasha Harris, LaRayja Hill, Robert Huggins, Christopher Hughes, Malik Johnson, James Johnson, Beunita Jones, Darneal Lewis, Clarita McLane, Jaylynn Mitchell, Nyiesha Moore, Alim Muhammad, Lawrence Peterson, Shanyia Ray, Adam Sahli, Kevontae Thomas, Sediel Velez, Brandon Watkins, Terrance White and Timothy Williams.

Copies of the book are available at Fellows Riverside Gardens’ gift shop, Giant Eagle in Poland and Wild Birds Unlimited in Boardman.

The book also has been nominated for a Growing Good Kids Award through the American Horticultural Society. Awards will be presented in July in Denver.

“We’ve talked about doing a video of an acceptance speech with all of the kids in it” to send to Denver in case it wins, Schuler-Vivo said.

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