Published Sunday, February 24, 2013

Annual diversity program celebrates talents, differences

By NICHOLE GOLDEN

nichole@newnan.com

The rousing performance of the Ugandan Thunder African Children’s Choir was the highlight of the annual Diversity Program at Arnall Middle School in Newnan on Feb. 15.

Students and staff members were invited to dance alongside their new friends at the end of the performance of an African drum song, an Exodus dance and “God Bless Uganda, and God Bless This Land.”

The theme of this year’s program was “Our Different Talents Make the World a Better Place.”

The program opened with the National Anthem, and then a parade of flags. Arnall students presented flags and spoke a greeting in the corresponding native language.

Pastor Tamarkus Cook of St. Smyrna Baptist Church presented words of encouragement to the students. “Diversity promotes humanistic values,” said Cook. He noted that the world would not be an exciting place if we all did the exact same things for the exact same reasons.

“Embracing differences is the sign of a cultured individual,” said Cook.

The local creative dance group Final Breakthrough Dance Ensemble presented “Take Me to the King.” Group member Hadiya Harden is an eighth-grade student at Arnall.

Students Zyon Brock and Hope Kjar were soloists, and Lauren Cook played a piano piece. The Arnall Chorus also took part in the program, singing “We are The World.”

A perfectly still audience listened as Ted Moody, director of the Ugandan Children’s Choir, spoke about the group and their home, the Royal School & Orphanage in Mityana, Uganda.

“They are wonderful, precious children,” said Moody.

The orphanage is home to 652 children, half of whom are orphans due to losing parents to malaria or other illness. Some of have been abandoned.

Moody told the Arnall students that the Ugandan children have no televisions, video games, or phones. “They have none of the things that you think you need to be happy,” he said. “It’s in yourself.”

The children’s choir is halfway through an 11-month tour of the United States and will perform at Dollywood in March.

During their enthusiastic performance, the Ugandan children invited staff members, including Principal Jan Franks and willing students, to join them on the gym floor for dancing.

The singers were praised with thunderous applause and cheering. Afterwards, choir members visited classrooms so that students could learn more about their culture.

The choir was to perform at Arnall last year but, due to visa issues, the visit came a bit late.

The school’s program was coordinated by Mrs. Jill Alford, social studies teacher, and a committee of faculty members.

“We are so blessed today,” said Franks upon wrapping up the Diversity Program. She encouraged her students to embrace differences in others. “Sometimes that’s difficult in middle school,” said Franks.

She noted that the Ugandan children had arrived earlier than most of the students that morning by bus. “They were already smiling and ready to go,” she said.

Their attitude is a great example, noted Franks. “Be that positive spark,” said Franks. “Celebrate diversity instead of ridiculing it.”

Editor’s note: Learn more about Ugandan Thunder at penniesforposho.org — an organization that helps feed the hungry children of Africa.

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