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Crossing the stage with PRIDE

Pinellas schools recognize 447 fifth- and eighth-graders who have distinguished themselves in certain subjects.

By DONNA WINCHESTER

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 16, 2001


Eleven-year-old Jarrod Pearson received flowers Thursday night for the first time. Before he walked across the stage at Ruth Eckerd Hall to receive his PRIDE award for science, his principal presented him with a three-carnation boutonniere tied with blue and gold ribbons.

"You just don't wear flowers much in your life," Debi Turner explained as she pinned the carnations to his shirt. She told him that he might wear them to his prom or his wedding, but as a Blanton student, he was getting flowers in recognition of his academic achievement.

Mrs. Turner also gave boutonnieres to Thomas Slettvet, who won a math award, and Joshua Watson, who won a social studies award. Julie Bou, Blanton's writing winner, received a wrist corsage.

The Blanton students joined 324 other fifth-graders and 119 eighth-graders in what has become a Pinellas County tradition. PRIDE, which stands for Program to Recognize Initiative and Distinction in Education, is in its 19th year. Friends and family members pack the auditorium and cheer for students who have distinguished themselves in particular subjects.

Fifth-graders compete in math, science, social studies and writing. To win an award, a student must maintain an A average in his or her subject during the school year, demonstrate a positive attitude and receive the highest score on a test designed by the School Board.

Eighth-graders compete in math, science, social studies, writing and world language. They are not tested, but they must earn a 3.5 average in their subject during their middle school years, demonstrate interest in it and show a positive attitude.

High school students also win PRIDE awards, but they are recognized at their individual schools.

A student can win only one award even though he or she may be the highest scorer in more than one subject, according to Art Dimter, gifted program supervisor for the school system. He said that all schools are eligible to participate, including exceptional education centers. Students at Nina Harris Exceptional Education Center won PRIDE awards this year in math and social studies.

The PRIDE winners wore bronze medallions suspended from red, white and blue ribbons. The medallions were engraved with the names of the students' academic subjects. When the school principals called their names, the students walked across the stage, received gold-toned trophies and shook hands with school Superintendent Howard Hinesley and other School Board members.

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