The visionary force behind Celebration USA and the annual National School Celebration is Paula Burton.
Celebration USA had its origins in a California classroom when Paula became dismayed by her students' apathy when they recited the Pledge of Allegiance. One day she wrote the word indivisible on the board and asked for a definition. The response? "You can't see it!" This started Paula's educational campaign to teach students to understand the words of the Pledge and, thereby, develop pride in being American. She discovered that the Pledge had been written for a National School Celebration, a patriotic observance held in 1892, complete with a presidential proclamation. She developed manuals and music that evolved into a series of curriculum that were eventually distributed to many school districts in the country. Her ongoing efforts consist of the distribution of 12,000 professionally recorded CDs to be sent to every public school in California in the Spring of 2001. Selections include The Pledge of Allegiance Song, The Constitution Lives, Bill of Rights Song, a Military Medley, Folk Song Medley, and other original patriotic numbers.
Celebration USA, a non-profit corporation, not only oversees the development of these materials, but also sponsors the "Catch the Spirit!" Singers, who have performed for major political and community events throughout California and on four occasions, represented California at the Independence Day Parade in Washington, D.C. Celebration USA's activities have been praised by Presidents Bush and Clinton, Secretary of State, Colin Powell, and chronicled in USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, the Orange County Register, and other publications.
Paula, a Dutch immigrant whose parents were aided by Americans during the Nazi occupation of Holland, immigrated to the United States with her parents and brother at the age of nine years. Her dream of being a public school teacher became a reality after she won a four-year scholarship and received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Elementary Education from Brigham Young University. Paula has taught all grade levels, including ESL (English as a second language,) and special education classes.
While Paula's four children, Brady, Greg, Brandi, and Jeff, attended public schools, she served continuously for twenty years in various offices of the PTA and other school, church, and community organizations. Her husband, Bruce, is a retired Fire Captain for the city of Huntington Beach, California, and is proud and supportive of the work she has undertaken.
She has received numerous school and community group awards through the years for her tireless work and services. These awards include:
*Community Service Award - 1985
*DAR "Americanism" Award - 1993
*Paul Harris Fellow Award from the Orange Rotary Club - 1994
*George Washington Honor Medal from the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge - 1993 and 1994
*California 71st Assembly District's "1994 Woman of the Year"
*Clara Barton Spectrum Award for Outstanding Women in Orange County - 1994
*SAR "Appreciation" Award - 1997
*Performing group recommended by Governor Pete Wilson to represent the state of California in the 4th of July, Independence Day Parade in Washington, D.C., - 1995 - 1997 - 1999 - 2000
*National Society of SAR, Martha Washington Medal - 2000