HUNTINGTON — Students at Our Lady of Fatima Parish School in Huntington celebrated the first day of Catholic Schools Week on Monday afternoon with a visit from Cathy Justice, first lady of West Virginia.

Justice spent time reading to elementary-level children and spoke with middle-schoolers about the importance of education and their goals for the future.

“We love the students; this is our future,” Justice said. “We want to instill in all the students of West Virginia to be proud of themselves, to be the very best they can be.”

Justice also encouraged students to embrace their West Virginia roots, reading “M is for Mountain State: A West Virginia Alphabet” by Mary Ann McCabe Riehle, which took the kids on an alphabetized-tour through the state’s famous landmarks and prominent figures.

“If they say they’re from West Virginia, we want them to be proud that that’s where they’re from and make the very best of it,” Justice said.

Randall Reid-Smith, a former opera singer and curator of the state’s Department of Arts, Culture and History, led students in a rendition of John Denver’s “Country Roads” before they headed back to class.

Micah O’Connor, principal at the school, said the staff works hard to localize lessons students are learning by bringing public figures to the school, not only during celebratory weeks, but on a regular basis.

“We want the kids to be familiar with figures in the state of West Virginia, and we want them to be familiarized with government figures,” O’Connor said. “They study these figures in social studies, they talk about them and hear their names, but they don’t know who they really are, so we wanted to put a face with the name.”

Catholic Schools Week is observed annually during the last week of January nationwide, and acts as a “homecoming week” for Our Lady of Fatima school, O’Connor said.

“One day we celebrate the students, we celebrate families, we celebrate the nation, we celebrate our parish, and the students get to have special activities that go along with this,” O’Connor said. “There’s a special theme each day of the week.”

Monday, students and teachers dressed as characters from their favorite book, TV show or movie for Justice’s visit.

Pajama day, decade day, crazy hat and sock day and school spirit day also will take place throughout the week, along with an annual volleyball game between the teachers and eighth-grade students on Friday and the Catholic Classic basketball tournament.

Follow reporter Hanna Pennington via Twitter @hpennHD.

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