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March for Arts takes to Sellwood and Westmoreland streets

by: David F. Ashton In full force, the Sellwood Middle School Marching Band plays.

It's a late May tradition, at Sellwood Middle School (SMS) - but one not widely publicized, which is why it remains a mystery to many onlookers why the entire school departs for a morning march northward to S.E. Bybee Boulevard and back one day each spring.

'The event is called 'March for the Arts',' explained the SMS Student Management Specialist Charley Gendron, who is also a sixth grade teacher of language arts and social studies at the Sellwood school.

'We've done this since I can remember, and I started in 1982,' Gendron told THE BEE. 'This year, it was on May 24th. It's a way to raise funds for art arts programs.'

The money brought in goes to support the 'Young Audiences Program' performers and the guest artist programs, he said - programs that help students gain an appreciation for the different kinds of arts.

'The kids go out and get sponsors who pledge donations for them walking in the parade,' explained Gendron. 'These days, for safety reasons, we ask that the kids don't go door-to-door - instead, they are to just ask family and friends to donate.'

With pledges obtained, the entire school - all 480 students and 25 staff members - then sets out in a march to fulfill the pledges. 'This year, the march was attended by every student,' Gendron said proudly. 'There's a real sense of family loyalty toward the arts at SMS. When schools are cutting, the families help to make sure the kids have this experience.'

Area retail businesses also put out collection boxes at their stores to collect donations.

'This wouldn't happen without our parent volunteers - six parents who put it together,' Gendron concluded. 'It was successful; it raised almost $4,000 this year.'