Northside Elementary students set for national stage

Austen Pruner, 9, left, and Riley Moody, 10, right, and other students rehearse.
Austen Pruner, 9, left, and Riley Moody, 10, right, and other students rehearse.

Twenty-five students from Northside Elementary School of the Arts plan to perform on stage in Washington, D.C., but first they have to raise almost $9,000.

In the fall, Northside was chosen as a Creative Ticket National School of Distinction, one of only five schools in the country picked by the Kennedy Center Alliance for Arts Education Network. The award recognizes schools for making the arts an essential part of students' education. As part of their winnings, a group of fourth- and fifth-graders will perform a montage of songs from past school performances on the Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center in March.

"I'm excited about going to Washington, D.C., and discovering what all they have there because I've never been there before," said Jalishua Petty, a 10-year-old fifth-grader.

Songs, dance, speaking parts

The performance includes songs, a little bit of dance and small speaking parts where students talk about their school.

"A lot of them have had experiences seeing those famous people walking across the stage, so they have that connection," said Cassidy Valerino, the school's program teacher. "We're going somewhere where all these other people have been."

Northside has two upcoming fundraisers to help with the trip's costs. The trip costs $359 per person.

"We're well on our way, although we still need some money," Principal Linda Crute said.

There will be a dessert theatre Monday night where the students going to Washington will perform. There also will be an International Night on Feb. 19, complete with dinner from Outback Steakhouse and a raffle.

Tickets for both events must be purchased by 3:30 p.m. today.

In preparation for their big trip, the 25 students, known as the Northside Arts Explorers, have been practicing their performance before school three days a week.

"We're working so hard," said 11-year-old Shaniyah Young, a fifth-grader. "We have to do the songs over and over to get them right."

The act includes songs from "Aladdin," "The Jungle Book," "Oliver!," "The Wizard of Oz" and "Beauty and the Beast."

"I'm just excited to represent Northside," said Charlesia Tucker, another 11-year-old fifth-grader.

In addition to performing at the Kennedy Center, students will get a chance to tour the nation's capital.

"For most of our children, they've never been to Washington, let alone had the opportunity to perform on stage at the Kennedy Center," Valerino said. "They're going to get a whirlwind tour of some of the major highlights of Washington while we're there."

The tour will include seeing monuments, the Supreme Court, the Vietnam Veterans and World War II memorials, the outside of the White House and Arlington National Cemetery.

Students will depart for Washington early March 5 and return at night March 7.