Petitioning The President

November 02, 1994|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,Sun Staff Writer

Listen up, President Clinton. Those ungrateful Democratic candidates may be pulling back their welcome mats a bit when you're in the neighborhood, but the youngsters at Shady Spring Elementary School probably would jump up and down if you stopped in.

You probably remember the tenacious bunch, led by a gotta-have-a-dream kindergarten teacher, who sent you weekly care packages last year, hoping to lure you to eastern Baltimore County. They sent invitations, letters, cards, videos and art projects.

They understood when you wrote to say you couldn't quite fit them in, though your stealing away to play golf instead of coming by to see them didn't sit well.

They're still not taking that "no" as the last word, although they aren't going the care-package route this time. So don't hold out for brownies.

This year they've turned to petitions -- canvassing neighborhoods around the Kenwood area school and their parents' work places with petitions asking you to reward their persistence with a few minutes of your time.

The petition notes their hard work, dedication and determination and suggests it would be a "unique opportunity" to emphasize the importance of such characteristics on young, impressionable minds.

So far, with their parents' help, they've collected about 500 signatures on 60 petitions. Many petitions still are out and another push is coming in December, said Mary Boegner, the teacher who hatched the presidential project two summers ago.

The students will sign their own "children's petition" before a school delegation hand-delivers the signatures to Washington. They're hoping to get one of their senators or representatives to bring them to you. Their motto this year, emblazoned along one wall of the school, is: "Will he come through the door in '94?"

Most of these upbeat youngsters say "yes."

"He should be coming in the next two months," said fourth grader Mitchell Baker.

"I think it's important that he come to this school," said Stephanie Boemmel, a fifth grader. "Everybody worked really hard last year and I think everyone is working really hard this year.

"Shady Spring would be really, really happy."

Her classmate, Erin Henthorn, said her mom "thinks it's a great idea that he's going to come because we don't have guns and drugs in our school and we'd like to keep it that way."

Despite their optimism, the Shady Spring youngsters know the odds of a presidential visit aren't good. After all, President Clinton gets 1,000 to 3,000 letters a day from young people, said Laurie Abrams of the White House correspondence office. There are almost as many invitations.

Ms. Boegner said some youngsters are discouraged and some colleagues "don't think it's worth it" any more. Other teachers are continuing to plan academic units around the presidential project, as they did last year.

"I never intended it as a one-year project," said Ms. Boegner. "The intention is to teach children about striving for a dream, something that keeps you creative and active. To have a dream is to say 'what if.' You don't just do that for a year."

And so the planning continues: Who else would be invited? What kind of music is appropriate? Can the students take his picture? Ms. Boegner even has a plan for including last year's fifth-graders, now in middle school.

"In my mind, we would work at this for four years," she said.

If the president hasn't shown up by the end of his term in 1996, she said she will concede defeat and declare her idea "an unachievable dream."

For now, though, she's still pushing the positive. "I always make people say 'when' he comes, not 'if,' " she said.

So, whatta ya say, Mr. President? Wanna say when?

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