People weren’t just talking about plans after Superintendent Heath Morrison’s five-year strategy presentation earlier this month.
School leaders noticed the 10-year-old boy who sang the national anthem got a massive round of applause with cheers and whistles after his delivery of “the home of the brave.”
He’s Marion Carson, a fifth-grader at Pineville Elementary.
Marion (pronounced mahrr-ee-on) says he has loved singing for as long as he can remember, and his school says channeling his energy into singing has helped him make a lot of progress.
He came to Pineville Elementary last year with frowns and low self-confidence, said his fourth-grade teacher, Laura Jacobsen. Marion said he was failing tests and thought he would never do well in school. “I would give up,” he said. But Jacobsen saw his potential.
“At first I thought she didn’t like me because she was pushing me,” Marion said.
Once Marion began focusing, he started getting A’s on tests. Jacobsen said she worked with him to learn to be OK with making mistakes, learning from them and working to do better.
“Is it fair to say that last year was a turnaround year?” Jacobsen asked him in the hall at Pineville last week.
Marion gave a big smile and a nod. The two high-fived.
Jacobsen had to teach him that she was being tough because she cared and wanted to see him succeed. They said they had a lot of discussions about focusing on the positive.
And singing was a big positive part of Marion’s life. The school learned of his talent when he sang Justin Bieber’s “Baby” at the school talent show.
Jacobsen recalled first hearing him sing. “You literally stand there sort of shocked,” she said. “He’s amazing.”
His teachers and principal Brian Doerer began finding opportunities for him to sing at pep rallies and other events.
One opportunity presented itself in April when the flag would be raised at the school’s new building. The week before, Doerer showed Marion Whitney Houston’s 1991 Super Bowl performance of the “Star-Spangled Banner” on YouTube. Doerer asked Marion if he knew the song.
He didn’t. But Marion said he learned it after lots of practice in just a few days. He sang it perfectly in front of the school, Doerer said, without showing a trace of nerves. He sang it again in September at the new building’s dedication.
“It’s fun. Every time I sing, I smile because I like it, and it makes me feel free,” he said. “I get to let my voice out, and I can do different things with my voice that not everyone can do.”
By a mile, his favorite singer (and dancer) is Michael Jackson, whose songs Marion said he sings all the time, whether it’s when he’s eating, playing video games or running to catch the bus in the morning. Other favorites are Justin Bieber and Bruno Mars.
He said he dreams of being a singer someday performing “every type of singing, from love songs to pop songs to a little bit of slow songs to rap.”
But he said he wants to stay in school and go to college – his eye is on Johnson C. Smith University – because “if you don’t go to college, you’re not going to be that smart.”
Marion said he’s learned some important lessons aside from the topics of fractions and phases of matter and Native American history he’s studying now:
“Stay confident. Never give up,” he said. “And stop dancing in the middle of class.”
Ruebens: 704-358-5294; Twitter: @lruebens
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