Tag Archives: national honor society

Walk to End Alzheimer’s



While we were trapped in Canada, Molly had an event to attend in Pittsburgh. The Hudaks kindly offered to pick up Molly and take her with them. The event was the annual “Walk to End Alzheimer’s” event held in downtown Pittsburgh. The kids’ school, 21st Century Cyber Charter School, had put together a team to walk for this great cause. It was a National Honor Society service project.


In the weeks leading up to the event Molly worked on raising funds for this important cause. Not wanting to simply ask friends and family to donate, she came up with a plan to offer service hours in exchange for donations to the Alzheimer’s Foundation. She cleaned houses, washed windows, and weeded gardens for this good cause. She was pleased to meet her donation goal of $100.00.

On the morning of the walk she was awoken by a knock at the door and the barking of dogs. Her alarm never went off! So, when the Hudaks arrived bright and early Saturday morning, she was still asleep. It was a jolting way to start the day, but she quickly recovered and hustled to get dressed and out the door in record time.


In downtown Pittsburgh crowds of supporters had gathered for the walk.

Molly and Tatum each received a t-shirt for pledging $100.


While registering, Molly ran into sweet Anna, a dear friend from Girls Camp and church activities. It was an unexpected treat!


Molly and Tatum ended up being the only two 21CCCS National Honor Society members to show up. It wasn’t all bad news, however, as they got some special one-on-one time with their learning coach, Mr. Winterode.


That day the walk raised $519,837.09 for Alzheimer’s research, support and care thanks to the 3,746 participants who showed up to walk for this great cause.


Following the charity walk, Tatum’s dad took Molly, Tatum and Olivia into Pittsburgh’s Strip District for shopping and lunch.


Molly said it was a blast.


The Hudaks returned her home in time for her evening shift at the Philly Pretzel Factory. I was sorry to miss the event but am grateful for good friends who could step in as surrogate parents while we were out of the country!

Thanks, Hudaks!

National Honor Society- a special night!


“No person was ever honored for what he (she) received. Honor has been the reward for what he (she) gave.” – Calvin Coolidge

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Last night was the big event that we drove to Philadelphia for. It was the National Honor Society induction ceremony for 21st Century Cyber Charter School. Last year at this time Toby, Gracie and I were driving out here for Gracie to be inducted into NHS. This year her best friend Olivia was being inducted and Grace was invited to be the NHS honorary speaker at the ceremony.

After our day at Hershey we arrived back at the hotel to dress up for this special evening that was being held at the Downingtown Country Club.

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(Toby stayed back with our four kids and Olivia’s two siblings, taking them to dinner and then to the hotel pool to swim for the evening.)

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A sister picture before we left 🙂

 The evening began with an opportunity to mingle and greet teachers (and the other students) before we had to sit down for dinner.

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The girls’ mural club teacher…one of their favorite teachers!

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Gracie’s new special ed teacher and Gracie’s best friend are…TWINS!!

 Dinner was delicious. Grace and I both had the pesto salmon dish with asparagus spears. YUM!

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After dinner the evening progressed through the program:

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The program began with the inductee procession. It was so much fun to see Olivia walk up to the stage.

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After the opening remarks it was Gracie’s turn to speak.

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This is the speech she prepared and delivered:

“As Mr. Dutcher said, I am Grace McCleery. I am in 11th grade and am 18 years old. I have been cyber-schooled ever since 1st grade but have been in 21st century for 3 years now. I am the oldest of five children. My family and I live north of Pittsburgh on a farm where we raise a great array of animals including tons of rabbits, an alpaca, a Guinea Hen, and even a potbelly pig named Harley Davidson. Some of my hobbies include painting, photography, and collecting quotes. One of my favorite quotes is, “She believed she could, so she did.” Since hearing this quote it has since stuck with me. It has become somewhat a life motto for me. I believe this quote applies to everyone.

NHS is a great honor. It is an honor in many ways, but to me it is an honor because it means that you have tried your very best and believed in yourself, which is not always the easiest thing to do.

            I would like to talk about how 21st Century Cyber Charter School helps students gain and develop the attributes of scholarship, character, leadership, and service, the four pillars of National Honors Society.

The first pillar of National Honors Society is scholarship. 21st Century Cyber Charter School encourages good scholarship in many ways. The teachers at this school are always asking if you need help, checking up on you, and encouraging you to do your best. They want you to succeed! They know that you can do anything as long as you put your mind to it. This further helps us as students believe in ourselves and do things we never believed we could before. I used to have a teacher in the school named Mr. Dolan. He has recently moved away. Mr. Dolan was the reason I joined NHS myself! School has never been easy for me. I have dyslexia so learning takes lots of time and effort. I never believed I could ever qualify for NHS because I always believed I wasn’t smart enough. Mr. Dolan told me that I could do anything I put my mind to. He encouraged me and because of him I gained  courage in my own abilities. It was because of this that I have done many things. The teachers in this school encourage us and help us believe in our own abilities.

The second pillar of National Honor Society is character. 21st Century Cyber Charter School helps students gain character. This school encourages students to be themselves. It does this by encouraging creative freedom and personality within students’ work. There is no judgment or criticism for being you. I love this quote by Dr. Seuss, which says, “Be who you are and say what you mean because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.” This school encourages us to have great character but also to be our own character.

The third pillar of National Honors Society is leadership. There are many leadership opportunities within this school. Daily we have the chance to help lead within live classes, work sessions, and many other ways. There are many activities like student-led clubs in which students have the chance to be leaders and show leadership qualities. Recently my best friend and I actually started our own student-led club within the school. We started it because we wanted a challenge and we wanted to get to know our classmates better. It turned out to be a great opportunity for leadership. We have learned that being a leader isn’t always the easiest, but it is always rewarding. For NHS we have the opportunity to serve and lead as a result of our required service hours. For my service hours I have been doing a form of tutoring. I have been teaching my 9-year-old brother music at our co-op for 3rd grade music class. I have had to learn how to be a leader and how to teach him so that he understands what I am teaching. This is not always the easiest task. First of all he is a 9 year old and his priorities are not exactly what mine are. Secondly he is a little boy so he would rather be wrestling around or making a mess than learning what crescendo means. Lastly he is ADHD so he has a very short attention span and cannot sit still for more than 5 min. at a time… which is why he is not here this evening! But it is because of me learning how to teach him and lead him that I know I will be well prepared whenever I become a teacher in the future.

The fourth pillar of National Honor Society is service. Although this school has students all over PA they greatly try to incorporate service into the school atmosphere. For example they have had blood drives and other activities to encourage service. As an NHS member I was required to plan, create, organize, and execute a service activity. For each member this “big service project” is different. It is different because we each plan it ourselves. For mine I wanted to incorporate my goal of being a teacher, so I decided to have a storybook day for children in my community. I helped them learn why reading is so important. It was because the school and NHS challenging me that I was able to serve my community and help many children discover the joys of reading.

National Honor Society is an honor now but will continue to be a blessing in our lives past graduation as we move into our future. We will be able to take the four pillars of National Honor Society: Scholarship, Leadership, Character, and Service and apply them to our future lives. 

I would like to conclude with a quote by Roald Dahl. It says, “ Somewhere inside all of us is the power to change the world.” I believe that the National Honor Society is helping us find that power within ourselves and channel that power, because they know that

We can change the world!”

She did an amazing job, so poised and confident.  I couldn’t be prouder of the lady she had become!

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It was then time to watch Olivia be inducted into NHS and celebrate her accomplishments.

It was a very special evening for both girls!

Congratulations Grace and Olivia!!



Storybook Day with Gracie


“The more that you read,

the more things you will know.

The more that you learn,

the more places you’ll go”  – Dr. Seuss

Today was a smashing success!

After much planning Gracie completed her National Honor Society service project requirement for her upcoming junior year. To keep her membership in the National Honor Society active she is required to log a required number of service hours each year, a required number of tutoring hours, and one large service project in which she displays the character attributes of service and of leadership as she leads her peers in the service project she has planned.

When pondering what to do for her big service project she considered many possibilities but decided that she wanted to do something that tied into her future career goal in the area of education. Grace has a passion for teaching, and a passion for books. As a child who struggled with learning to read before being diagnosed with Dyslexia, she knows the joy that comes from finally breaking through the wall of illiteracy and discovering the joy of reading.

She is now a book lover, and although she still struggles with Dyslexia she has learned how her brain learns. She hopes to take that personal experience into her future workplace as a special education teacher.

She is a firm believer in the quote by Frank Serafini:

“There is no such thing as a child who hates to read. There are only children who have not found the right book.”

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So when considering what to do for her National Honor Society project she decided to combine her love of children and children’s literature and plan a “Storybook Day.” She wanted to share with the children from church some of her favorite books!

Offering some of the other young women at church the opportunity to complete one of their personal progress 10 hour projects, she organized the girls into teams of two to plan a craft or activity that corresponded to a favorite children’s book. Two of her co-op buddies also came to help out for the day.

After putting out sign-up sheets at church she ended up with 13 kids at her Storybook Day, not as many as she had originally hoped for but what ended up being a perfect number.

On Friday Grace spent the day preparing for the activity. She went shopping for the food needed for lunch. She stopped at the Dollar Tree to buy treats for the goody bags that she was sending home with each child. The items in the goody bags corresponded with each of the books they were reading to the kids.

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She made name tags and a sign-in sheet.

She set up the stations for the different activities and decorated the chalkboard in honor of the activity.

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By the time the sun set she was ready for the day ahead. She even had time to paint her nails to match her story for lunch the next day:

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The other young women arrived by nine the next morning to help finish setting up and then the children began arriving at 9:30.

The kids played on the McDonald’s Play Place while the girls waited for all the kids to arrive. At 10:00 they began the day with their first book:


The kids sat on a quilt in the yard to listen to the story and then did an apple or tree craft that tied into the story.

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The next story they listened to was:

rainbow fish

Following this story they made rainbow scales like the fish in the story by decorating clear plastic cups with Sharpie markers and melting them in the oven until they became a “fish scale.”

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The next story was:


Molly helped plan the activity that followed this story. Using purple yarn she created a “Harold and the Purple Crayon” drawing around the yard. The kids each grabbed hold of a paperclip attached to the yarn that they pulled through the maze of twists and turns to reach the end.

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This story was followed by:


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This book ends with Curious George and his red balloon so it only made sense that the activity that followed included water balloons! The kids loved participating in the water balloon games which quickly evolved into an old-fashioned water balloon fight.

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Then it was time for lunch. Gracie took charge of this part of the day with great plans in mind. The book she planned for lunch was:


Lunch was a plate of some of the foods featured in the book. To add to the authenticity she used a straw to cut caterpillar holes in the watermelon and strawberries. The swiss cheese came pre-poked. 🙂

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While the kids ate lunch Grace read the book.

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Lunch was followed by dessert, of course!

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For dessert the kids enjoyed chocolate chip cookies while listening to this book:

if you guve a mouse

At the end of the day the kids had about 30 minutes before parents were due to return so after packing everyone’s goody bags with their completed crafts the young women organized the kids into games. It was a perfect end to an already “booked” event.

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A lot of work went into this very special day and I think the whole family felt a bit of relief when it went off without a hitch and ended successfully. Grace was grateful to all the girls who came to help and for the many hands that made her load lighter.

After a long day it is now time to say goodnight…


“Goodnight stars, goodnight air, goodnight noises everywhere.” – Goodnight Moon

A Week at Home


There is nothing more wonderful than a day at home with no place to go!

I treasure these sort of “stay at home” days,

probably because they are such a rare occurrence. 🙂

Swimming lessons wrapped up last week, and we are done with summer camps. so after a busy two months of traveling and shuffling kids to and fro we finally had a week at home with minimal outside obligations.

It was just what I needed.

As I tackled the Mt. Everest sized mountain of laundry in my laundry room, and the 2 inch layer of protective dust on all my vertical surfaces, I felt the weight lifting. As my home became more organized  I felt the weight of anxiety lighten.

“Ok, I can do this,” I thought to myself as I began systematically crossing items off the “to do” list.

This was what I needed.

Just a few uninterrupted days ( uninterrupted except for football practices and therapy) to tackle those tasks that were weighing most heavily…

It was heavenly!

As I focused on addressing all those little worries and frustrations I found the big worries didn’t seem quite so daunting.

Here is a peek into our life this week…

granted most of our activities really didn’t justify pulling out the camera

 unless you wanted a shot of my Mt. Everest laundry pile. 😉

Monday was Gracie’s “one on one” time with me, that one hour of uninterrupted time with Mom to do whatever that child wishes. This week Grace told me that she wanted to use her time to work on her National Honor Society project.

For one of her requirements to maintain her membership in the National Honor Society she has to plan a 10 hour service project each year. This year she decided to do a literary day for the 4-10 year old children at church. She is working with some of the other teenage girls at church to plan a day of crafts, activities and lunch all based on their favorite children’s books. She has been preparing for weeks and is very excited.

For her time I helped her do advertising and sign-up sheets for the event.


Another requirement for her membership in the National Honor Society is a set number of tutoring hours each year. She has been fulfilling some of that requirement this summer by working with Tyler on his reading and spelling skills. On Monday she came up with the creative idea of taping the alphabet letters to the piano keys and letting him spell words. Tyler loved hearing the “songs” different words made.


I thought it was a clever way to engage her ADHD brother in a task he is not too fond of. She is going to make an awesome teacher one day!

On Monday night the big kids decided to try one of our bucket list items. They decided they wanted to spend the night sleeping on the trampoline. It was a perfect night for it with cool temperatures and a clear sky. Molly was a bit nervous that the coyote would come prowling around so they zipped up the trampoline safety net and kept Winnie, our bulldog, outside with them for the night. They came in the next morning at 7:30 am, declaring it a wonderful night’s sleep.



Tuesday was Molly’s “one on one” time and she chose to use her time to make a craft she had seen online. The craft was making stained glass light catchers to hang in a window. It was so simple but they turned out very pretty.

Step 1: Decorate clear plastic cups with sharpies.


Step 2: Place them rim side down on an ungreased cookie sheet.


Step 3: Bake them in a 350 degree oven for 5 minutes.

Step 4:Pull them out and let them cool.


When they are cool punch a hole, string them, and enjoy.


They turned out so well Grace decided to use them as one of her crafts for her story book camp.

One of the items on my “to do” list this week was to make more allowance envelopes. Kids’ allowances have always been a struggle for me. They are supposed  to receive their allowances on Fridays each week but it  never fails that Friday would roll around and I wouldn’t have the cash on hand. Then I would have to try to remember who I owed what to

when we were at the store and they were wanting to purchase something with their allowance money.

A few years ago I got smart and realized that if I would just plan 6 months at a time the allowance headache that creeped up on me every Friday would be solved. Now twice a year I go to the bank and take out $300.00 in one dollar bills and $100.00 in dimes and make allowance envelopes for each child for 6 months. I use dimes for part of their money to make it easier to pull out their tithing and separate their saving money from spending money. It is a laborious process, taking a couple of hours to count out, package, and label 26 envelopes for each of the five kids BUT it saves me from having to deal with the allowance headache for 6 more months. It is well worth an afternoon of counting out dimes. 🙂



All done!


On Wednesday the girls had an activity with their youth group at church. The young women were going to the wave pool to enjoy an afternoon of playing in the waves. This was the first year I wasn’t needed as a driver so I stayed home with the boys while Grace drove Molly and herself to the church to carpool with the rest of the group.

They picked a perfect day for it…at least in terms of the temperature. It was one of the hottest days of the summer, making it perfect for playing the pool. Unfortunately all of Pittsburgh had the same thought, making for a very crowded day at the wave pool. Luckily the girls didn’t mind and had a blast despite the crowds.

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While the girls were off playing in the waves I took advantage of a day trapped at home. Toby had to take my car to work so there was no temptation to leave the house. I was able to tackle the monumental task of registering Molly for high school. This year she will be attending the same school as Grace and Rusty. I am excited for this change and know she will love 21st Century Cyber Charter School as much as her siblings do.

But it never ceases to amaze me the amount of paperwork required to register a child for school. Getting the paperwork completed was my goal for the day and felt another burden lift off my shoulders when all the papers were placed in the envelope and put by the front door to be mailed.

Today was spent on the phone dealing with a delicate situation involving one of Tyler’s biological siblings. Brandon, his older brother who recently lost his newly adoptive momma to cancer has found himself in limbo.

We have arranged to have Brandon spend the weekend with us. We are taking him camping. The whole situation is horrible and heartbreaking and we are hoping to give him a weekend of healing…

a vacation from a heartbreaking reality.

We approach this weekend with caution and hope…

Hope that we can be a blessing, but also that we can meet manage the behaviors and meet the emotional needs of a wounded little boy.

We ask for prayers,

continued prayers,

for Brandon and this weekend ahead of us.




National Honor Society


It was a beautiful night.

We arrived at the hotel with enough time to get ready for Grace’s special evening.

When we arrived, however, we discovered that when booking our room online I had somehow inadvertently booked it for the wrong day. When Toby went to check in and get the key to our room he was informed that they weren’t expecting us for 3 more weeks. Oops!

So Toby then got to haggle on the phone with Orbitz, trying to fix my mistake, while Grace and I began getting ready in the car. We did our hair and make-up in the parking lot so when Toby finally got our room key with only 10 minutes to spare, we just had to change our clothes. We got to the country club with time to spare.

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The venue was beautiful. It felt like we were at a wedding reception rather than a school ceremony.


When we arrived we were greeted by many of Gracie and Rusty’s teachers whom we have met before at various outings, as well as many of their teachers that we had not met before. Grace was especially excited to meet her learning coach, Mr. Dolan.


We were seated at table 4 with Mr. Dolan and another family. We enjoyed an evening of nice conversation, beautiful live music, and delicious food prior to the start of the ceremony.

Dinner consisted of a delicious mixed green salad followed by an entrée of our choice. We were given three different options and Toby, Grace and I all  picked the same dinner:

Cedar Plank Salmon with mashed potatoes and green beans.

It was all SO good.

Our meal ended with cheesecake for dessert.


Then the ceremony began.


The night was a celebration of the accomplishments of these special kids. There were keynote speakers and a presentation of the qualities demonstrated by the students in NHS:





It was then time for the Enlightenment Ceremony, the ceremonial lighting of the inductees’ lantern of knowledge.



Then the students lifted their right hands, repeated the induction pledge, and were presented with their National Honor Society pins.


The teachers then planned something special for the students as a surprise. The parents were all contacted and asked to send in a short note, written to their child, to be read during the ceremony. As the students letters were read, there was a slide show of the students’ pictures playing in the back ground. It was a special touch added to an already wonderful night. Here is the note that was read to Gracie:

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Dear Miss Gracie-

What a joy it is for us to be celebrating this day with you. We are so proud of your accomplishments, but even more so, we are proud of who you are. We delight in your kind spirit, your empathy and humility, your tenacity and diligence. We have watched you work hard to overcome the challenges that have made school work harder for you than others, and yet you have never given up or made excuses. You simply dig deeper, work harder and reach higher to be all that you are destined to be. Your example is a strength to your siblings and your friends, and a blessing to your parents. Stand tall, sweet girl, and remember who you are. Your future is bright! We love you and are proud to call you daughter!

Love- Mom and Dad

After the ceremony we stayed long enough for Gracie to be in some group photos and to say good-bye to her teachers. Each of the inductees also received a gift from the school. In the gift bag was a 21cccs National Honor Society shirt and a school mug filled with candy.


The evening ended at 8:30pm.

It was such a special night and once again we were so impressed with 21st Century Cyber Charter School and the way they always go above and beyond for their students and their families.


Well done, 21cccs

and great job, Gracie!

We are so proud of you.