It was a cloudy, gloomy day in Baltimore on September 9th, but inside Pikesville Middle School, it was as sunny as could be! The dedicated efforts of many had finally come to fruition in the opening ceremony of the 56th Ben Carson Reading Room. Cheery student greeters distributed name tags and directed guests through the halls of learning to the packed library.
Eighth graders Raven Cubebe and Julia Wright kicked off the assembly with the pledge of allegiance. Pikesville Middle School Principal Mia Talarigo then welcomed everyone, including visiting dignitaries, organizers, and the student representatives in attendance. Ms. Talarigo graciously thanked all who wereinvolved in establishing the Reading Room, and told the story of Dr. Carson’s rise from the lowest academic achiever in his class to the smartest. Dr. Carson credits his love of reading for all of his academic success. Principal Talarigo charged the Pikesville students to see how far reading takes them!
Talented 7th and 8th grade students then performed the “Start of Something New,” from Disney’s High School Musical. The singing was accompanied by interpretive choreography to motivate students to visit the new room. The performers, under the direction of Mr. Brad Permenter, finished with panache that would outdo even the peppiest of cheerleading squads!
Attorneys Louis and Phyllis Friedman, founding partners of the Towson-based law firm Friedman & Friedman, were introduced next. These benefactors of the Pikesville Middle Reading Room have funded eight rooms to date, with two more set to open this fiscal year. Former educator and CSF board member, Phyllis Friedman, spoke of the CSF vision of recognizing smart students who give back, and related her hope that the Pikesville students will develop a love of reading that will follow them throughout their lives.
Dr. Carson followed in a video message, thanking all the organizers and sharing his story of how he was teased as the dummy of the class, but turned it all around with reading. His final words to the students were “Read every day and Think Big!”
Assistant Baltimore County Superintendent, Dr. Roger Plunkett, used birds as a metaphor for success. He said, “You can choose to be a turkey, with your head towards the ground; or an eagle, who leads and soars.” Dr. Plunkett thanked the community leaders who came to support the venture: Orrester Shaw, from the County Executive’s office; Board Member David Uhlfelder; County Council member Ms. Vicki Almond; Principal Tricia Rueter from Wellwood International (another Reading Room school); and Principal Edmund Mitzel from Pikesville High.
The next speaker was Candy Carson, Co-Founder of CSF. Mrs. Carson shared the story of another friend (not Dr. Carson) who overcame his poor beginnings through reading to become the boss of the most-widely-published magazine in the world! She said, “With books, you can be anything you want to be…even an astronaut, when they’re cutting back NASA funding!”
Students Christian Lewis (8th grade) and Joshua Lipsey (6th) shared their Think Big essays. Christian spoke on “not waiting for dreams to happen, but making them happen,” and Joshua, shared his story of having a rare eye disorder, being told he couldn’t play baseball, and then going on to beat the odds and help his team get 3rd place in the state in their first year!
A fascinating slide show of the development of the Reading Room followed. The slideshow was created by Ms. Getty, who was the principal organizer of the Reading Room project at Pikesville Middle.
Students were dismissed to classes and the special guests were escorted through the whimsically painted computer lab (which had a depiction of a computer ‘escape’ button above the door) to the actual Reading Room. Phyllis Friedman and Candy Carson were handed the scissors, and with a countdown of 3-2-1, the multi-toned blue ribbon was cut and the new Reading Room was officially opened!
The school theme is “Read for Higher Learning.” above the many bookcases filled with literature hang college pennants, logos and university mascots. The kids grabbed their book of choice and rushed to the bean bag chairs. Rainbow-colored lamps rounded out the coziness of the room.
A special thank you to student participants who introduced each of the presentations – 7th graders Drew Fuget and Kyree Winfield and 8th graders Raven Cubebe and Julie Wright – and to everyone else who played a role in the development and opening of this beautiful Reading Room!
The Pikesville Middle School Ben Carson Reading Room was Sponsored by Louis and Phyllis Friedman, Esq.