VISIT TO MIKAYLA'S SCHOOL
PHOTOS FROM MCALL.COM
Clay Aiken gives an autographed copy of a book Lower Nazareth Elementary
School students wrote about fellow student Mikayla Resh, who has cerebral
palsy, to Logan Houptley, 10, of Bethlehem, one of the book's authors.
||Singer Clay Aiken reads the book "Our Friend Mikayla" to the students of Lower Nazareth Elementary School at Nazareth High School's auditorium.|
|Singer Clay Aiken visits with the students of Lower Nazareth Elementary School Monday morning.||Students from Lower Nazareth Elementary School who wrote "Our Friend Mikayla" listen to singer Clay Aiken read it out loud at Nazareth High School auditorium Monday.|
|Clay Aiken sings to Mikayla Resh as her mother, Kimberly Resh, holds her.||Ashley Werkheiser, 10, of Nazareth, proudly holds her autographed copy of "Our Friend Mikayla', which she helped to write, as she listens to singer Clay Aiken read it aloud.|
|Clay Aiken reads aloud from "Our Friend Mikayla."||Some Lower Nazareth Elementary School students who helped to write "Our Friend Mikayla" are excited as they get to ride back to school in a limousine coutesy of singer Clay Aiken.|
Clay Aiken tells the children of Lower Nazareth Elementary School that
they will be riding back from Nazareth High school to their school in
||Singer Clay Aiken. left, listens to the Nazareth High School Nightengales sing.|
Aiken reads aloud from "Our Friend Mikayla."
||Michael Allen, 11, center, Logan Houptley, 10, center right, and some other students from Lower Nazareth Elementary school who wrote the book "Our Friend Mikayla" about classmate Mikayla Resy surround Mikayla, left, after an assembly where singer Clay Aiken appeared to read the book aloud.|
NAZARETH, PA <--correction
They had no clue that "American Idol" runner-up Clay Aiken planned to join them.
Aiken, co-founder of the Bubel/Aiken Foundation, which published the students' book, "Our Friend Mikayla," earlier this year, dropped in to thank them for writing it.
Mikayla Resh, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, became the center of a biography written and illustrated by her third-grade classmates two years ago. Mikayla's mother, Kimberly Resh, wanted to thank everyone involved and planned the all-school assembly.
"If the whole school wasn't so wonderful to my daughter, there would be no story," Resh said. "They are just amazing children."
The student body, totaling 686 children, sat and listened as Principal Rose Allshouse and Resh thanked various people for their support.
Kristy Barnes, president of the Bubel/Aiken Foundation, announced the singer. The foundation works to have children with special needs included in the world around them.
Two girls from the school's chorus who were sitting in the front row fell out of their seats. The rest of the students sat still, eyes wide as Aiken strolled on stage.
Aiken brought presents. The authors climbed the stage one by one to receive an inscribed copy of "My Friend Mikayla."
An autographed copy will also be given to every student at the school.
"May I read the book to you?" Aiken asked.
"Yes," the students chanted.
Aiken read the book as the illustrations were projected onto a large screen. When he came to the page featuring himself on "American Idol," he stopped. "Who wrote this page?" Aiken asked. In the front row, Logan Houptley's hand shot up. "Come on up here," Aiken said, and he asked Logan to read the page.
"I didn't know I was (going to read with Aiken), so I was really nervous," Logan said.
Victor Lesky, superintendent of the Nazareth Area School District, thanked Aiken and the students.
"Mikayla has added so much to the experience of the students at Lower Nazareth Elementary that she by far meant more to us than we have to her," Lesky said.
Before leaving, Aiken talked with the 19 authors and posed for numerous photographs. He wanted everyone to know that his foundation is more than lip service.
"I think that I have always said that it would be my goal that if I wasn't able to keep on singing to continue with the foundation," Aiken said. "I would love to think that this book will be (the students') legacy in a way and hope that what we do is something that lives on far longer than my own life."
Aiken, who was to appear Monday night at Easton's State Theatre, broke a personal rule to never sing before a performance. Leaning over Mikayla as Resh held her, Aiken sang a few lines from "When I See You Smile."
According to Mike Resh, Mikayla's father, Aiken heard the students joke about wanting money for their book. Aiken didn't have money for them, but he heard one of them mention that riding in a limo would be cool.
Aiken arranged for limousines to take the students back to school. On his way out, Aiken broke the news about the limousines. The students burst with excitement.
"Oh my God! Thank you!" Michael Allen said. "Is this a dream? A limo is the best. It is like the first time I'll be in a limo. It is so awesome!"
In front of the high school, the young authors piled into their limousines. The boys in one car cracked open cans of soda from the mini bar and the girls giggled with excitement in the other. They pulled away like pop stars -- maybe inspired by Aiken -- to horns honking, camera flashes and a few parents waving.
Clay Aiken's visit
to Lower Nazareth class no idle lesson
As the small girl lay nestled in her mother's arms, singer Clay Aiken began a soft serenade.
''When I see you smile,'' he sang, just loud enough for 11-year-old Mikayla Resh and mom Kimberly to hear, ''I can face the world.''
Mikayla's big brown eyes were open wide, mostly unblinking. She didn't move. The Lower Nazareth Elementary fifth-grader showed no signs that she recognized the singer made famous as a runner-up on the TV show ''American Idol.''
Born with severe brain injuries, Mikayla has cerebral palsy and is not able to walk or talk.
But that's just on the outside, nurse Marty Thomas said after Aiken finished crooning. ''She smiles with her heart.''
Emotions of all sorts were rampant Monday with Aiken's surprise visit during a school assembly at Nazareth Area High School to honor the 19 students who wrote ''My Friend Mikayla.''
Students at Lower Nazareth Elementary, bused in for the occasion, know about the book, which was written and illustrated in the spring of 2005 by Mikayla's classmates. The Bubel/Aiken Foundation announced in May it would pay to publish the book.
But students had no idea they'd be joined by the organization's namesake, and Aiken's arrival drew gasps and cheers, along with bewildered looks by some who turned to each other as if seeking confirmation it was really Aiken.
He handed the authors, now in fifth grade, a copy of the book before placing the last one on Mikayla's lap as she sat in her wheelchair on the side of the stage.
Story time began.
''Mikayla goes to the same stores we do … and she might even get her ears pierced. We think she should,'' read Aiken before turning quizzically to the girl.
''Did you get your ears pierced, Mikayla?'' he asked.
''Yes!'' the group of authors loudly responded.
The book is the brainchild of Kimberly Resh, who each year used to donate a book to the school library. She noticed a gap in subject matter she decided could be filled by her daughter's classmates: a book written by children about children with disabilities.
Resh worked with students to develop content and art. She persuaded Aiken, in town for a sold-out show Monday night at the State Theatre Center for the Arts in Easton, to visit the school.
Before ''Idol,'' Aiken was on his way to becoming a teacher, studying special education. Mike Bubel was an autistic boy he worked with, and Aiken began noticing how difficult it was for someone with special needs to do anything ''normal.''
''The book is a prime example of what we want to do … spreading the word of inclusion,'' Aiken said during a smaller gathering with the authors after the assembly.
Aiken's gift with children was quickly apparent, and students rushed to answer his questions about how the book was developed.
He received mixed responses. ''It took anywhere from 30 minutes to a week to half a year to write the book,'' Aiken surmised.
Aiken next challenged the students to think about how life would change when they entered middle school, where students from Nazareth's three elementary schools would merge.
''What if the cool thing becomes to be mean to her?'' he asked.
Students rushed to Mikayla's defense.
''She can still relate to us. She cheers. … She can do the same things we can,'' Megan Gangewere said.
Aiken said he hopes the foundation's work outlasts any personal success he has as an entertainer. ''I think there's a lot of people who have a platform'' and don't take advantage of it, he said.
No matter how excited the authors were by Aiken's visit, the final surprise announced at the end of the nearly two-hour school visit generated near hysteria — rides back to Lower Nazareth Elementary in two limousines.
- article here: http://www.mcall.com/news/local/all-3clay-1rdec12,0,4670274.story?coll=all-news-hed
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