SPENCERPORT — Brandon Henshaw, a fourth-grader at St. John the Evangelist School, may have hit on a winning strategy to become president of the United States. “Lower gas prices,” he proclaimed as his campaign pledge.
Brandon already has presidential experience, of a sort. Sitting in a wheelchair at the St. John’s Expo 2006 May 4, Brandon was dressed as Franklin D. Roosevelt, president from 1933-45. Brandon noted that FDR suffered paralysis from polio and inspired the March of Dimes movement to eradicate the disease.
“The only thing you have to fear is fear itself,” Brandon said, reciting the famous words from Roosevelt’s inaugural address in 1933, while the country was gripped by the Great Depression.
Brandon was one of dozens of students showing off their talents at the Expo, which included dramatic performances; a sword dance; choral singing; artwork and poetry displays and other activities. Linda Boone, principal of St. John’s, noted that Expo 2006 gave the school’s 148 students a chance to show their parents and the community the grasp the children had of the various subjects they’ve studied over the past school year.
Brandon was part of a “Living Wax Museum” in the school hallways where various fourth-graders portrayed historical characters. By standing on a marked spot on the floor in front of a student portraying a historic person, a visitor could prompt the young actor to deliver a monologue about the character he or she was portraying.
Zachary Kimmel played Red Jacket, whose real name was Segoyewatha, an 18th-century Seneca chief born in Geneva.
“A British soldier gave him a red jacket, and he really didn’t wear that too much,” Zachary said.
Christina Aponte played Mary “Molly” Jemison, who was taken captive by the Shawnee and the French in Pennsylvania in the 1750s, and later adopted by the Seneca tribe in New York state. Christina said Jemison was known for her kindness to anyone in need, and was a strong person.
“I think she handled (captivity) very well,” Christina said. “Instead of crying all the time, she had a lot of confidence.”
Sarah McLaen portrayed 19th century women’s-rights activist Elizabeth Cady Stanton. The fourth-grader noted that the more she learned about Stanton, the more she liked her.
“She’s pretty cool because she fought really good for women’s rights and made really good speeches,” Sarah said.
Meanwhile, other students were showing off their work in a computer room. Michael Coykendall, a second-grader, said he enjoyed using his computer skills.
“The coolest things about computers is how you, like, type the letters and it goes up to the screen,” Michael said.
He showed his visitors how he could create graphic images, including a deserted island. He noted that he would have no problem living on such a place because it was surrounded by water, allowing him to fish for his food. He added that he also was part of the second graders’ performance of an African folk tale in the gymnasium.
“It’s really cool how you can be in front of all of these people and talk to them and stuff,” Mike said.
Or sing to them, for that matter, as a group of students did at the end of the evening. First up was a group of kindergarteners and first-graders who sang a rousing version of the Irish song “Rattlin’ Bog,” followed by “Pirate Song.” The youngsters’ vigor gave the performance the air of Saturday night at a pub — socked strictly with soda pop, of course.
Next up were the fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders, who sang the Mexican hymn “De Colores.” In a call-and-response portion of the song, the students sang thanks to God in several languages, including Portuguese, Japanese, English, Spanish, Italian, Chinese and Creole. Amanda Justiniano, a sixth-grader, led the song, wowing the crowd with a mature soprano voice that belied her youth.
“I was just really excited,” Amanda said after the performance. She added that she enjoyed singing the song’s lyrics.
“They’re really meaningful — thanking God in a bunch of different languages, seeing how other people are thanking God in their languages,” she said.