Centre students in kindergarten through 12th grade invited more than 100 people to a special celebration Monday to thank them for making a difference in their lives.
Superintendent Jerri Kemble said the purpose of Monday’s Blue Ribbon ceremony was for students and staff alike to show their appreciation for the help and hugs the community has given to all of them.
In addition to the Blue Ribbon program, Monte Selby, an educator, singer and song writer, worked with students throughout the day and assisted with entertainment at the ceremony.
Balcony vs. basement
Kemble talked about two kinds of people in this world, those who are basement people and those who are balcony people.
“Basement people,” she said, “pull you down, suck the life out of you, criticize you and attempt to pull others down too.”
In contrast, Kemble said balcony people encourage others by pulling them up, pulling them forward and helping them move into a positive direction by offering support.
When it comes to basement people, she said they are only happy when they are unhappy and they are not people who make things happen, but instead wait for things to happen and then complain about it.
“Their favorite tactics are fear, intimidation and bullying, and unfortunately some of these people don’t realize some of the damage they do with their discouraging behavior, which is due to the fear that people will change and leave them in time.”
Yet being a balcony person is a tough job, Kemble said.
“You are the people that have extended your arms to pull others up. You have opened your arms to give them much needed hugs and you have spread encouragement and kindness.
“Thank you for being a balcony person to our students and to our staff.”
For Kemble, it was 13 years ago she said she was first involved in Blue Ribbon Day and it was because of two special balcony people—Pastor Bill and Judy Peterson of Herington, who introduced her to this concept.
As part of the festivities, Bill Peterson was asked to re-tell the story that he and Kemble co-wrote, which was published in an educational journal.
The story, he said, involved two teachers excited about teaming up to teach English and social skills.
One of the teachers was listening to a tape of “Chicken Soup for the Soul,” with the original Blue Ribbon story: “Who I Am Makes a Difference.”
Peterson said the teacher decided to share the tape with the class and the students decided they wanted to do their own Blue Ribbon project.
The teachers then gave the students an assignment asking them to write grammatically correct essays to someone who touched their lives in a positive way.
“One little girl, Rebecca, had only been in the class for two weeks,” he read, “and her grandma died just the week before.”
Reminiscing about her grandmother’s house, she said it was one of her favorite places to be. Smelling the cookies, her perfume and seeing her flowers and plants were good memories, but they also reinforced how much she missed her.
“Fortunately, I still have my other grandma—Grandma Rosella,” Rebecca said.
She wrote a letter to her grandmother talking about what a good listener she is, how when Rebecca had sad times, her grandmother would take her to the park.
“Once it was muddy,” she said, “and I fell. I was worried that I would get in trouble, but Grandma Rosella just laughed.”
At the end of her appreciation letter, Rebecca wrote that in the essay she wanted to show how much she loved her and to thank her.
The letter was mailed to Rebecca’s grandmother, which arrived on a Saturday so she was able to share it with her card club.
Peterson said, that the letter was also an invitation for Grandma Rosella to attend the Blue Ribbon Day celebration.
Normally Rebecca’s grandmother worked, but this time Rosella decided she would take the day off and go to the program.
“That night before she went to bed,” Peterson read, “Grandma Rosella read the letter once again.
“These last few years had not been easy for Rosella, but she also knew that a ray of sunshine can penetrate even the darkest days and Rebecca’s letter was that ray of sunshine for her.”
Grandma Rosella was not able to be with Rebecca the day of the ceremony, though, because on Sunday, the day after the letter arrived, she died.
The appreciation letter that started out as a school project, Peterson noted, ended up being a lesson in life for Rebecca and her classmates.
“From this they learned the importance of communicating and then appreciation to those they love,” he said.
It’s about not waiting to tell someone about how much they mean to that individual.
“The other students learned compassion and concern for a fellow classmate in their time of need and learned courage from Rebecca’s example,” he said.
“We live in a world that’s pretty uptight most of the time and people are constantly after us to stay on task with business,” he said. “It is important to do these kind of things, but much more important to take time every day to recognize those people who make a difference in your life.”
Peterson said it was 13 years ago that three of them—he, Jean Brunner and Kemble started doing a blue ribbon program, but this year was his first invitation to attend the program for making a difference in a friend’s life.
During the one hour-long celebration, students gave letters, a rock and hugs to their special someones.
Kemble said the rocks had notes on them ranging from “You Rock,” and “Thank You for Being My Rock,” to “You Inspire Me.”
Kemble said it was about students, teachers and other staff to write to someone and thank them.
“It was time for us to say, ‘thank you’ to our community, because we know it really does take a village,” she said.