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Students in Schenectady spellbound by Harry Potter’s wand

Saturday, November 20, 2010
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— Sixth-graders from Yates Magnet Elementary School found a mix of magic and learning on Friday during a field trip to Union College.

The students learned about three notable Union College graduates, including Joseph Christopher Yates, namesake of their Schenectady school district school, Schenectady’s first mayor and a founding trustee of Union College.

The magic involved a display featuring the wand used by actor Daniel Radcliffe, who plays wizard Harry Potter in the movie “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1,” which opened nationally Friday.

Union College obtained the wand in September from Union graduate Alan Horn, class of 1964, another notable featured in the college library. Horn is loaning the wand through January. He is president and chief operating officer of Warner Bros., producers of the Harry Potter movies.

Kerensa Hughes, 11, was in awe of the movie prop. “My friend, Amber, was holding me up,” she said when she saw the slender wand at the college.

Hughes has read every Harry Potter book by author J.K. Rowling, who has become a billionaire through her writings, plus the extra books on the subject and biographies on the author. She also has seen every movie except for “Deathly Hallows,” but she plans to see the movie with her parents as soon as possible.

Hughes has been a Harry Potter fan since the third grade, and her parents are fans as well.

“What I like most about the series is his adventures. They take you in and you just know it will be an amazing adventure,” she said.

“Deathly Hallows” concludes the series and will be shown in two parts, with the second part coming out next year. Hughes said she does not see this as the end, however.

“It is never going to be over as long as children are reading the books,” she said. “I hope there will be other movies and other books.”

Hughes said seeing the wand was special to her. “It is an actual connection to the movies and books, which have been a part of my life for so long,” she said.

Hughes dressed for the occasion as a Slytherin student. Slytherin is one of the four houses at Hogwarts, the school of magic in the Harry Potter universe. But Hughes said her loyalties really lie with Ravenclaw.

Student Naz-Jhonay Plossl said she was excited to see the wand as well. “It’s cool. Everybody wanted to see it and touch it,” she said.

Plossl said if she had the wand and it worked, she would use it to get money and clothes and “to change Schenectady around.”

Union College archivist Ellen Fladger said the wand has proven to be one the college’s more popular displays. “It is a prop, but it has symbolic appeal. While it is not valuable monetarily, it is a collection item,” she said. As such, the wand remains under lock and key in the Union College library.

Fladger said the wand’s appeal is not limited to children.

“We have had students and adults come in and have their picture taken with it,” she said.

Phillip Wajda, Union College spokesman, said the college and the Yates school maintain an ongoing relationship. In 2007, students invited college President Stephen C. Ainlay to speak at their graduation. The following year, Ainlay invited Yates students to the campus for a tour.

 
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