March 24, 2012

Manchin encourages area students | The Martinsburg Journal

MARTINSBURG -U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin had plenty in common with Martinsburg High School's award-winning Good Times Show Choir members when he stopped for a visit Friday morning, especially since his own son had been part of a similar musical group during his school days.

Although the choir was predominantly female, Manchin encouraged his son, Joseph, to get involved because he had a good voice and loved music.

Soon, several of his son's friends also joined and in the end, it was an award-winning group that traveled the country, he said.

"So I know how much work this is and how important it is to you.

The arts really reveal the soul and through it, you can see who you are," Manchin said.

"And I hope you will keep this in your life always ... My son is now 40 years old and he still has fond memories of that group, he still loves it. We'll be in restaurants sometimes and he just begins to serenade people," he said with a smile.

Although money is tight nationally, Manchin said he remains a supporter of the arts.

"Of course every time the budgets start getting challenged, the arts are some of the first things that get targeted for cuts and that is just ridiculous," he said.

"This should be the first thing that is protected because it really is a window to the soul. And it is so important that kids get to express themselves, that they have a way to find themselves," Manchin said.

Manchin gave special praise to the school's "Harlem Nights" project, which aims to bring the Harlem Renaissance to local students and community members.

It will feature drama, music, art, dance and poems inspired by the Harlem Renaissance cultural arts movement, said art teacher Elaine Unnone, who is organizing the event.

MHS students are thrilled to be involved in a cultural exchange with the Harlem Renaissance High School as part of this activity, she said.

In addition to Good Times choir members visiting Harlem Renaissance High, several students from that school "will also be coming to Martinsburg High School to enjoy our Harlem Renaissance celebration," Unnone said.

Manchin said the Harlem show choir is also stopping at his Washington office on its way to Martinsburg.

"What's really interesting is that I understand this is their first time being out of Harlem, so they're coming here to see who we are, everything we do and how we live," he said.

That struck a chord with senior Sydrake Abdi, who said he appreciated Manchin's encouragement and believes it is important to pursue dreams.

"I liked it when he said we are the future and how we need to keep reaching because if we think it is over now for school, it will be. But that's not even close to being true because there is so much more for us to do," said Abdi, who is considering pursuing an engineering degree.

He's also excited about meeting Harlem Renaissance students.

"It's great to have this opportunity with a show choir from Harlem. I'm interested in seeing the differences and similarities between us," Abdi said.

Tickets are now available to the free event which will be held March 31 at MHS from 5 to 7 p.m.

By:  Jenni Vincent
Source: Senator visits Martinsburg High School