Students at Neil Armstrong school in Richton Park inspired by late namesake
BY STEVE METSCH firstname.lastname@example.org August 31, 2012 2:20PM
Principal Pamela Woods talks about the life and legacy of Neil Armstrong during an assembly at Neil Armstrong School in Richton Park, Illinois, Friday, August 31, 2012. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 3, 2012 6:16AM
The accomplishments of the late Neil Armstrong serve as a reminder to students at the school named after him that anything is possible, officials said Friday.
Armstrong, the first man on the moon, died Saturday and was laid to rest Friday.
At Neil Armstrong School, 5030 Imperial Drive, Richton Park, on Friday morning, his inspiring achievements were lavished with praise by students, teachers and elected officials during a moving ceremony in the gymnasium.
“Our school carries a proud name. Our namesake did what people thought was impossible. The possibilities are endless. Endless,” Principal Pamela Woods told the school’s 350 students in kindergarten through fifth grade.
“He was the first human being to step foot on the moon. That dream came true. Anything is possible. You can pass that test. You can get that A. You can make it happen,” Woods said.
Fifth-grader Ariel Graham, 10, who read aloud Armstrong’s biography, said his moon walk “means there’s a possibility you can do anything if you put your mind to it.
“He wanted to do it for his nation and his job. He didn’t do it because he wanted to be a hero,” Ariel said.
Fourth-grader Briyon Watts, 9, who read a poem written by Armstrong about his famous walk called “My Vacation,” said the astronaut “didn’t do it for the money, (and) didn’t do it for the fame.
“He did it to make the world a better place and to make everybody happy,” Briyon said.
While neither has lunar ambitions — Ariel wants to be a doctor and Briyon wants to be an artist and an author — each said Armstrong is an example of how you can achieve your dreams.
Second-grade teacher Madeline Spurck told students about how she and friends dashed in from a game of dodgeball to watch Armstrong’s moon walk on “a black-and-white TV with rabbit ears.”
Similar stories were told by Elliott Johnson, the School District 159 board president; Supt. Barbara Suggs Mason; and Richton Park Mayor Rick Reinbold.
Johnson — whose son is a product of District 159 who now works for NASA — called Armstrong “one of America’s true heroes.”
“Mr. Armstrong and his crew carried the hope, aspirations and pride of the United States on their backs when they stepped foot on the moon and planted the U.S. flag. They proved the United States was a country where anything could be accomplished if one put their mind to it,” Johnson said.
During his speech, Reinbold said “every generation has a frontier and every generation has pioneers.
“In Neil Armstrong’s day, the frontier was outer space. There was the space race — which country would be the first to put a man on the moon. Neil Armstrong was a pioneer on that frontier. Why was he chosen? His foundation. What was his foundation? His education. He worked hard on his education because that gave him the tools he needed to be a pioneer to help America win the space race,” Reinbold said.
Today’s generation is facing a frontier in technology, he said.
“You will be the pioneers in computer design, in systems design, in software design and in technology we don’t even know exists today. But you will be pioneers and the leaders on that frontier. The base of that is your education, and that starts here at Neil Armstrong School,” Reinbold said.
After the assembly, Reinbold, 60, called Armstrong’s July 20, 1969, moon walk a highlight of a turbulent era.
“You had the ‘68 Democratic National Convention, JFK was killed, you had the Vietnam War. There was so much going on that was not positive, causing angst and stress,” he said. “So for us as a nation, to win the space race, it really gave us something to rally around, (and) to rejoice around a very positive event. We were hungry for success.”