Learning from royalty

Adorned with her tiara and sash, Miss Black Florida, Donnitra Swain read to a room of about 40 second grade students Tuesday at Bond Elementary School.

As part of her four-school circuit for the National Reading Chain Day, Swain, 20, a junior public relations student at Florida Memorial College in Miami, visited local elementary schools to talk about the rewards of diligence and the importance of education.

“You work hard and go to college to get a degree and then a job to make lots of money,” Swain said to the wide-eyed group at Bond. “Then you can fill your whole house with candy bars.”

The children giggled, but Swain emphasized the moral of the story.

“You can do anything you put your mind to,” she said.

During the hour-long visit at Bond, Swain read “Aunt Flossie’s Hats (and Crab Cakes Later)” by James Ransome. Swain followed the story with a question and answer session.

Swain, who was crowned Miss Black Florida last May, said she hopes she inspired the students, especially one.

Tataniesha Brown, an 8-year-old second-grader who stayed to meet Swain after class was dismissed, said she was motivated by Swain’s visit.

“I want to learn so I can go to the same college that she goes to,” Brown said, bashfully smiling while pointing to Swain.

“I reached her in some way,” Swain said. “Even if she’s the only one I affected, I’ve done my job.”

Brown was one of the two students who were awarded a dollar for answering the story questions correctly.

Swain signed the dollar and Brown said she plans to keep it.

“I want to save my dollar,” she said.

Investing in the future is one of the principal reasons special events coordinator and chaperone Deanna Christensen, who arranged the event in conjunction with the Capital City Chamber of Commerce.

Christensen looked at Swain’s visit as a way to inform the students.

“Donnitra’s platform is education,” she said. “This is a perfect event to showcase that.”

“In Florida, the FCAT is a problem,” Christensen said. “When children do poorly, they feel like they have failed.”

Maggie B. Lewis-Butler, school board member district 3, agreed that Swain’s visit to the school was a critical move.

“I thought it was very timely,” Lewis-Butler said. “Students are preparing for the FCAT and they needed a motivator and role model.”