By John Higgins
Beacon Journal staff writer
Sandra Felt thanked Akron middle school students Friday for raising more than $2,500 to create a national park and monument on the Shanksville, Pa., site where United Flight 93 crashed after passengers and crew tried to retake the plane from hijackers.
The fifth- and sixth-graders at the National Inventors Hall of Fame were toddlers on Sept. 11, 2001, when Felt's husband, Edward Felt, and 39 other passengers and crew lost their lives.
They spent the last week of April learning about the events surrounding United Flight 93. On April 30, they held a ''Track and Field Day'' at the University of Akron's InfoCision Stadium, running laps for pledges and playing games to raise money.
''I am awestruck at what a few kids, setting their hearts and minds together, can do,'' said Felt, whose husband made a cell-phone call to 9-1-1 from the plane.
She told students that her husband, who was 41 when he died, was a specialist in Internet security who had a lifelong love of learning.
''He was a leader among computer engineers and architects before his death,'' she said. ''Ed was granted several patents for an encryption technology.''
She said he would have appreciated their school, which specializes in science, technology, engineering and math.
''He would have been thrilled to know that the curriculum that promotes our scientists and engineers has been
brought down to the middle-school level,'' she said.
''I understand that this very school was established to promote the very talents that he admired most about young people. My challenge to you is to find your passion, become leaders, innovate, create and live a life with a purpose,'' Felt said.
Diane Pancoe, a fifth-grade language arts and social studies teacher, encouraged her homeroom advisory group, the STEMtasitics, to get involved last fall.
They joined the ''93 cents for Flight 93'' campaign organized by the Akron-based HALO (Hope Always Lives On) Foundation.
It's part of the national fundraising effort and focuses on teaching school children about the commonplace heroism, patriotism and courage the passengers and crew demonstrated.
Sharon Deitrick, an Akron resident and owner of the design firm Deitrick and Associates, started the HALO Foundation in 2003 and began reaching out to area schools with the ''93 cents'' campaign last year.
Recently, three seventh-graders at Northwest Middle School in the Canal Fulton area Cassandra Watkins, Cassandra Kremer and Ariel Marx also led a fundraising effort.
Watkins' brother, Drew Watkins, is a junior at Northwest High School and designed the campaign's Web site, http://93centsforflight93.org.
''We're trying to raise $1 million from kids throughout America,'' Deitrick said. ''The kids are really doing it.''
During the course of their project, one fifth-grader at the National Inventors Hall of Fame School, Brynne Burgy, learned something about her family's history that brought the lesson home.
She said her father was on a plane Sept. 11, 2001, that had to land in Kentucky when the air space was cleared.
''My mom told me one day when I was asking her about Flight 93,'' Burgy said.
She was one of four students asked Friday to tell the assembly and Sandra Felt what they had learned from the project.
''During this whole thing, I actually learned that my dad was on a flight the same day,'' she said. ''It was a really close call. It really taught me how small of a chance there is for a person that you love to still be alive.''
John Higgins can be reached at 330-996-3792 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the education blog at http://education.ohio.com/.
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