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Ga. Educators, Students Cast in Olympic Roles

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Once school let out, Larry Pendergrass was expecting an average summer with an average summer job.

Until he got the letter with the five famous circles on it, asking him to come to work at the Summer Olympic Games. Now, Mr. Pendergrass will be making sure that the world's best marksmen don't have any problems getting to the firing line.

The 57-year-old retired Army major is the Junior ROTC instructor at Creekside High School in Fulton County, Ga., and the coach of its air rifle team. Those qualifications earned him a job as the firearms supervisor for the XXVI Olympiad in Atlanta.

He is one of dozens of local school employees who have been caught up in the massive event, which is expected to bring some 1.4 million people to the city from the opening ceremonies on July 19 to the close on Aug. 4.

Even students have found work as timers, scorekeepers, and in a variety of other jobs.

"Some of our seniors who are at least 18 have been employed at game venues," said Thelma Mumford-Glover, an administrative assistant for instruction with the 60,000-student Atlanta city schools. "A lot of other kids are volunteering."

More than 100 students from the neighboring Fulton County schools will volunteer in the opening and closing ceremonies, according to officials at the 56,000-student district.

Learning Experience

In addition to the chances for direct participation, the Olympics' intermingling of cultures from around the world created rare educational opportunities throughout the past school year. Several corporate sponsors offered Olympics-related essay and art contests for local students.

The Woodward Academy, a private K-12 school in the Atlanta suburb of College Park, has added a special summer session to continue its Olympics-related curriculum through the close of the games. The 2,500-student school has created a site on the Internet's World Wide Web that has allowed its students to communicate with their peers from several countries who will also be following the games.

Though the Olympics have created opportunity, they will also bring a lot of traffic.

Summer school programs and administrative schedules in Atlanta and Fulton County have been revised to allow for the huge disruption in the city's normal life. At some schools in the heart of the action, summer programs had to be canceled or their hours changed.

Summer school in the Atlanta district started earlier this year and classes will last three hours instead of the usual one so that the program will be finished by the time the games begin on July 19.

An Interesting Opportunity

For most educators, however, the disruption will be more than offset by the excitement and the chance to be a part of the games. Mr. Pendergrass, for example, will assist the athletes with transporting their firearms to the Olympic venue as well as ensuring that they get quick and courteous assistance.

He said that at first he didn't believe he was qualified for the job, but when Olympic officials made it clear they wanted him, he jumped at the chance.

"It sounded interesting," he said.

Jean C. Doherty, an art teacher at Fulton County's Riverwood High School, is also excited about her role in the Olympics.

For a brief moment, she'll be at the center of attention as one of 235 local residents chosen to carry the Olympic torch during the opening ceremonies.

While many locals complain about the certain crowding, the 13-year teacher said she wouldn't have missed that opportunity for anything.

"A lot of people are leaving Atlanta right now," she said. "But I think this is the best place to be."

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