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Outstanding Students Parade Through Charlotte Amalie

Feb. 10, 2007 — Marching proudly through the streets of Charlotte Amalie on Friday in a parade celebrating their academic achievements, more than 600 students from the St. Thomas-St. John district proved that doing well in school comes with its own rewards.
"Having something like this is important, because we have so many negative things said about our public-school students," said Daphne Thomas, the Department of Education's assessment director for St. Thomas-St. John. "We wanted to show that they are excelling academically."
Thomas organized Friday's parade, as well as an award ceremony honoring students who scored above the 50th percentile on the 2006 Iowa Test of Basic Skills and the Iowa Tests of Educational Development. Both sets of tests are designed to evaluate student achievement in the areas of reading, language arts, math, science and social studies.
This year's honorees excelled in the areas of reading and math — critical components of the local public-school curriculum, Thomas said. "The next time, we're going to include those who excelled in science, and the year after that, those students who did well in social studies," she said.
All students participating in Friday's parade were given medals for their achievements, while students who scored in the 90th percentile in either reading or math received small trophies. Larger trophies went to those who excelled in both reading and math.
"It's important to note that all students in the second to eleventh grades who did well on the tests are represented today — including our ESL (English as a Second Language) and special-education students," Thomas said.
A few students, such as Jenae Richardson, a senior at Ivanna Eudora Kean High School, also boasted other academic accomplishments. Richardson recently won an achievement award from the National Council of Teachers of English. According to the organization's website, Richardson received a certificate for "superior writing."
"My essay was called 'Adjust Your Focus,' and it dealt with the importance of self-examination," Richardson said. "It talked about the need for students to be non-judgmental or critical of others."
Richardson, who said she wants to be a journalist, was one of approximately 600 achievement-award winners nationwide.
"Stories like that really encourage the students," said Lisa Hassell-Forde, acting superintendent of schools for St. Thomas-St. John. "And it gives those who didn't do so well something to work toward."
Hassell-Forde joined other officials from the Department of Education, along with Gov. John deJongh Jr., in congratulating the students on their accomplishments. Organizers also offered some well-received entertainment. Students squealed with delight as Dora the Explorer and Jimmy Neutron worked their way through the garden, dancing, twirling and posing for pictures with both students and some of the government officials attending the event.
"They really are enjoying themselves," said Sen. Shawn-Michael Malone after the ceremony. "And they deserve it."
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