Barbara Bush's Feb. 28 visit to Fort Meade was a chance for area children to shine.

From the Meade Senior High School cheerleaders to the two children who approached the podium to bring gifts to the first lady, children highlighted the festivities.

Nathanael P. Bodkin, 6, gave a gift of yellow roses. His mother, one of 30 dependents with relatives in Saudi Arabia, talked to Bush. Nathanael's father, Warrant Officer 1st Class Phillip G. Bodkin, is serving with the 201st Military Intelligence Battalion.

Kathy L. Reynolds, 7, gave Bush a book about "Our World," written by first-and sixth-graders at West Meade Elementary School.

West Meade elementary students, clad in blue-and-gold school spirit sweat shirts, in signlanguage sang "From a Distance" to honor the first lady at the celebration of victory at Fort Meade's Gaffney Gymnasium.

The choir included Dawn Bishir, Genoveffa Bunting, Rosetta Bunting, Jessica Byczek, Giselle Colon, Andrea Cowperthwait, Nicole Evans, Leslie Gallina, Lyndsey Gekoski, Vernessa Lee, Jeannette Plyler, Martha Prichard, Tameka Sawyer and Mary Spurlin. Choir regular Alexa Ryan was ill and missed the festivities.

The children, ages 8 through 11, have been practicing once a week since January, with extra practices for the last three weeks. They previously performed at a renovation ceremony for their school's media center.

Choir director Catherine Dwarshuis said, "We all need to communicate. Our school has lots of kids with special needs; we get more all the time. Communication is the goal of theclub. Kids need to learn communicate with peer groups and the rest of the community."

The children who participate in this after-school activity are not the only students at the school picking up the signing.

Kathy L. Reynolds, 7, also from West Meade Elementary, signed along as her classmates performed. The children are enthusiastic about sign language.

The children also reacted favorably to the first lady.

Giselle Colon, 8, thought Bush was "great," and Lyndsey Gekoski, 10, called her "fantastic."

Their comments were were typical of the remarks coming from the children about an event that seemed like a combination circus and pep rally, full of patriotic songs and feeling.

The children hope to perform again at the school's March 14 and 15 Maryland Day Celebration. Each class at the school will make a presentation of something they have created that is significant of Maryland.

Dwarshuis said that she will begin another session forstudents to learn signing on April 11.

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