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Pride & Patriotism takes stage Nov. 11

By Staff | Nov 8, 2018

For over a decade, youth across Lee County have been brought together to celebrate the arts and honor veterans at the Pride & Patriotism event, held each year at the Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall in Fort Myers.

Students representing a myriad of schools in the county unite for a night of remembrance, gratitude and captivating performances that highlight the importance of our veterans and military groups.

This year’s event will be on Nov. 11, at 6 p.m.

“The concept of Pride & Patriotism was born out of the advocacy for the arts and love of country, which together, present a ‘pride’ of our student’s artistic talents in a patriotic theme,” said President of Pride & Patriotism of Lee County Inc., Jack Wagner, a veteran and Purple Heart recipient.

Students submit works of art, poetry, mini-documentaries and perform patriotic musical selections throughout the night, now in its 13th year.

The four categories students will be recognized for are: visual arts, drawing and painting; visual arts, photography and digital design; poetry; and mini-documentary.

Each year’s event is themed, this time around being “The Role of Women in the Military throughout the Years.”

“We have a video from Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth opening this year’s program,” said Wagner. “Sen. Duckworth was one of the first Army combat women helicopter pilots in Iraq who was shot down by an enemy RPG (Rocket Propelled Grenade) resulting in the loss of both her legs.

“As a fellow Purple Heart recipient, I have the utmost respect for Sen. Duckworth. Sen. Duckworth, along with her Chicago and Washington D.C. staff, were extremely gracious in affording us this opening program video.”

Judging brackets are broken down into grades K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-10 and 11-12.

“Our students are provided entry forms in the above categories through our teachers,” said Wagner. “For example they are given the theme of the program for that year and apply their artistic talents to that theme through art, poetry and mini-documentaries. Their submissions are judged by our Art, English and TV production teachers. There are three winners (1st, 2nd & 3rd place) along with a Honorable Mention category. The 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners are escorted on stage by their teachers along with a veteran who honors these winners by placing a medal around their neck.”

Wagner said the event has grown immensely over time, thanking the community for taking the initiative to honor our veterans through the eyes of our students.

“We, as Americans, owe a debt of gratitude to our veterans who afforded all in this great nation the opportunity to enjoy our freedoms,” he added.

Dick Kennedy, Pride & Patriotism committee member and grants-writer, said that it is a year-long effort to bring the event to fruition and it would not be possible without the hard work of their volunteers and community sponsons.

“The Pride & Patriotism committee is composted of veterans, educators and patriotic citizens, whose goal is to inspire patriotism in students and award those displaying exemplary talents in their works,” he said. “The committee is totally voluntary and we are totally funded by donations, fund raisers and grants.”

Kennedy also noted that Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Greg Adkins, is a veteran himself and advocates for the program, being an active participant in the event.

“Pride & Patriotism is a singer experience with imagery, gratitude and love of country,” said Wagner. “It is more than a program, it is a celebration!”

The vision for the event came to life thanks to former Lee County School Board Member, Dr. Elinor Scricca, who passed away this year.

This year’s event will be dedicated in her memory.

“She will forever be our CEO,” said Wagner.

Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall is at 13350 FSW Parkway in Fort Myers.

Visit www.prideandpatriotism.org for more information.

-Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj