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Putting a new spin on middle school
Two veterans of sorts bring a color guard - the flag-twirling kind - to John Long Middle School, where even sixth-graders get in on the act.
By MICHELLE MILLER, Times Staff Writer
Published November 28, 2007
Members of the John Long Middle School color guard practice their routine after school on a recent Friday afternoon. When the school in Wesley Chapel decided to start a color guard program, 32 students tried out for the 12 spots on the squad. Organizers expected half that.
[Zach Boyden-Holmes | Times]
[Zach Boyden-Holmes | Times]
Sixth-grader Casee Cullen and the John Long Middle School color guard practice their routine after school recently.
WESLEY CHAPEL - "One, two, three, four, tell me that you love me more."
When it came to picking a song for the new color guard at John Long Middle School, Stephanie Fucito thought right away of the iPod Nano commercial.
She wasn't into pitching MP3 players. Her thing is counting.
The tune, by Canadian singer-songwriter Leslie Feist, was "just perfect," said Stephanie, who knows how important it is to count when you're twirling and tossing those flags.
It's one of the directives the squad members are always hearing from their coaches. Fucito and her counterpart, Torrina Mauradian are always on them about that.
"You've got to keep the counts in your head," Mauradian urged her charges, who were a little off during a recent afterschool practice session. "Don't go with the music. Don't pay attention to anyone around you because they're not always doing it right."
Both Fucito and Mauradianhave experience tossing flags and rifles. Fucito, who teaches language arts at Long Middle, graduated from River Ridge High in 1999. She performed with the color guard there and helped with the squad at Pine View Middle last year.
Mauradian, who teaches geography, graduated from Zephyrhills High in 1998. She was in the color guard there for two years before twirling a baton for two years as a majorette.
Both thought it would be great to bring a color guard program to Long Middle and to include sixth-graders, who typically don't get a chance to participate in sports or extracurricular activities until seventh grade.
Principal Beth Brown gave the approval and soon they were holding tryouts.
To their surprise, 32 students tried out for the 12 spots on the squad.
"I was excited about that," Fucito said. "I didn't expect that big of a turnout. Maybe 15, but not 32."
Students were judged on hand-eye coordination, ability to catch on to some of the simple moves, and other skills. Then came the personality test. The coaches weren't looking for perky, just courteous and polite.
"We were seeking members who could represent John Long Middle in a good way," Fucito said.
The squad has done that quite well at a couple of the school's football games and at every pep rally, Fucito said.
"We hope to go out to elementary schools (to perform) so those kids know what they are in store for. Then there's the possible opportunity of attending an upcoming Florida Bandmaster evaluation," she said.
"We try to teach them stuff they will learn in high school so we can grow into a great feeder program for Wiregrass Ranch High," said Fucito, adding that five squad members will be moving on to Wiregrass next year.
Maria Sans, 11, said she was eager to try out for the squad "because it looked like a lot of fun and you get to meet new friends."
"It's the only thing (extracurricular activity) that sixth-graders can do," said Julia Cheeseman, 11, a novice who did research on the Internet with her mom to find out just what a color guard is.
"I think it's a wonderful opportunity," said Desiree Cheeseman, who has taken to twirling the flag with her daughter during practice sessions in the family's back yard.
"She has so much energy, so this is great for her," said Mrs. Cheeseman. "And she's loving it."
"One, two, three, four, tell me that you love me more ..."