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The bronze-and-granite No Child Left Behind Sculpture Plaza. Honest.

Accompanying this story is a picture of Rod Paige, U.S. education secretary, helping to dedicate the sculpture at Hamilton High School that depicts President Bush signing the No Child Left Behind Act in 2002.

HAMILTON - When 13-year-old Maria Montes looks at the bronze statue of herself on the plaza of Hamilton High School, she's proud.

Proud that two years ago, as a fifth-grader, she was on the stage as President Bush signed the historic No Child Left Behind education-reform act in her adopted hometown.

"I hope my family will be proud of it. I've never been in a statue," said Maria, who came to Hamilton from Mexico almost four years ago. "It looks younger than me."

Maria is depicted in one of the nine life-size figures in the bronze-and-granite No Child Left Behind Sculpture Plaza, dedicated Tuesday. The artwork was commissioned and paid for by Hamilton philanthropists Donna and Ralph "Pat" Carruthers to commemorate the Jan. 8, 2002, signing.

U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige and Congressman John Boehner, R-West Chester, spoke briefly at the ceremony.

"It was to mark the day a bill was signed by a president. It had never happened before in Ohio and might never happen again," Donna Carruthers said. "It's a nonpolitical thing. Everyone in this city should be proud the education bill was signed here." Not political but the Carruthers are listed as top contributors to the Butler County Republican Party.

Superintendent Janet Baker called the artwork a lifetime reminder of Hamilton's unity and hometown pride.

"I believe that the Sculpture Plaza will challenge the intellect and emotion of Hamilton students, staff and community for years to come," Baker said. Challenge the intellect?

Two years ago, Tez Taylor was on the dais behind Bush. He received a pen to mark the occasion. All the then-Jefferson Elementary School fourth-grader wanted to do was write with the pen. He still wants to write with it, but knows he can't.

"It's on a plaque in my grandma's living room," said Taylor, 12.

As he looked at the statue - depicting him in a wrinkled sweat shirt, fingering his backpack - he fidgeted.

"Everybody's talking to me. I get nervous."

His grandmother, Joann Harris, said the entire family is proud of Tez. "It's a big thing - huge, overwhelming. I'm the proud grandma."

— Sue Kiesewetter
Hamilton's big day now cast in bronze for all to remember
Cincinnati Enquirer


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