5th graders from Glenwood Springs Elementary School put leadership into their own words, grab community’s attention with yard sign | PostIndependent.com

5th graders from Glenwood Springs Elementary School put leadership into their own words, grab community’s attention with yard sign

Ms. Reiley's class of 5th graders posing with their leadership signs outside of GSES.

Have you been inspired recently by one of the many yard signs throughout Glenwood Springs promoting positive characteristics of a leader?

Thank a Glenwood Springs Elementary School fifth-grader, such as Sophia Degadillo, who chose the word “intelligent” for her sign.

“I chose ‘intelligent’ because … you just want to show who you really are, and then when you do that you show your real personality, but most people don’t do that. So, by being intelligent you can help people figure out who they are,” Degadillo said.

GSES fifth grade teacher Kendall Reiley said the students started the leadership unit by learning about Jackie Robinson and the change he was able to facilitate in the sports world and overcome the adversities he faced because he was Black. Since fifth grade is the last year for elementary students in Roaring Fork School District, Reiley said being able to identify who a leader is and what a leader does helps the kids have a better understanding of who they are before they transition into a new school.

GSES 5th grader Diego Ostorga Torres poses with his leadership yard sign in Centennial Park.

“Right now they’re working on these passage presentations and they’ll present to community members, it’s a panel made of community members, district staff and teachers, about who they are. So this project tied a lot into having them focus on who they are and how they can bring about change into the world. And what change they want to see in the world,” Reiley said.

The signs are scattered in Centennial Park in downtown Glenwood Springs, in front of the Glenwood Springs High School and near GSES with words like “team,” “independent,” “dynamic,” and “supportive,” just to give a few examples. Fifth grader George Chan said he chose “wonder” for his sign since for him it describes the thought process behind his drawings. Chan added how he’ll be inspired by his friends and vice versa.

“I think I inspire some of my friends … since sometimes they can be sad or mad and I just try to calm them down. Sometimes they want to follow me, like follow in my steps where I’m going,” Chan said.

Kelly McPherson, another fifth grade teacher at GSES, said by equipping the students to be able to speak about themselves and the change they’d like to create helps ground them in their identity and the skills they have to support one another as well.

Jasmine Recio (left) and Issy Norville (right) squat beside their leadership signs in Centennial Park.

“Knowing who they are, that kind of builds their self-confidence so they’re prepared to go into middle school and kind of have a more solid idea about who they are. Also, I want to say (it strengthens) a feeling of belonging and being connected to each other, but having a strong, big foundation of who they are,” McPherson said.

Local printing company Gran Farnum gave the teachers a discount when printing the yard signs, and Reiley added the city of Glenwood Springs was very accommodating with letting them share the work the students had done. Part of the project was also finding local leaders to interview and the students chatted with Jasmin Ramirez, co-founder of Voces Unidas and RFSD school board member, and Don Jesus, a supervisor who works at GSES.

Angie Par Serrano (left) and Sophia Vega Rojo (right) hold up their signs with words defining what it means to them to be a leader.

“We interviewed Jasmin Ramirez, and we asked questions like ‘what inspired her to become a local leader?’” Degadillo said. “She’s the co-founder of an organization called Voces Unidas, and it’s mostly for Latino men, women, kids, things like that for them to have a part in the community that they feel like is about them.”

Each sign was creatively designed by a student from multiple different drafts under the guidance of another teacher who was a former graphic designer. Reiley said all it takes for the work that went into the signs to be worth it is having an impact on at least one person’s day.

“If one person driving down Grand Avenue sees a sign that says ‘kindness’ and it makes them smile, then I feel like we’ve done a pretty good job,” Reiley said.


Reporter Jessica Peterson can be reached at 970-279-3462 or jpeterson@postindependent.com.

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