Culver vice principal: 'You look out for friends and classmates, because it's our Culver family.'

SUSAN MATHENY/MADRAS PIONEER - Culver kindergarteners, from front left, Harper Keegan, Hayden Wallman, Liam Sando and classmates, hold up pledge bracelets given out by their teacher Jamie Fritz, at right. Students pledged to try to "Lift Each Other Up" over an 18-week period.
Culver students accepted an 18-week challenge to promote tolerance and "Lift Each Other Up" at a schoolwide assembly Jan. 29.

The assembly began with a line of school leaders from each grade, K-12, joining hands and raising them up together.

Vice Principal Josh Davis noted the recent celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and gave excerpts from King's "I have a Dream" speech. King dreamed that someday children would not be judged by the color of their skin, but by their character. He said, "The time is always right to do what is right."

"What are you doing for others?" Davis asked the students.

"Our job in Culver is to take care of each other. The seniors take care of the kindergarteners. You look out for friends and classmates, because it's our Culver family," he told them.

Culver Mayor Nancy Diaz spoke, saying, "I want to share the dreams I have about you."

Diaz said her No. 1 dream was that 100 percent of Culver students would graduate and go on to college. She said she hoped to see some grow up to run for city government, or get involved in the many volunteer opportunities in Culver. She never expected to be mayor, but stepped up to the challenge.

Besides being mayor, Diaz noted she volunteers as a medical responder with the fire district and Jefferson County Emergency Medical Services.

In her paid job, she works with people with disabilities and sometimes hears "things that hurt my heart."

"I dream you all will respect one another. Think about how you would feel and don't laugh about others with disabilities," she said.

She advised the students to, "Continue to reach for the stars, turn those stars into dreams, and turn your dreams into hope in life. I did it; I know you can."

Next, CHS counselor Tyler Davenport narrated a slide show about popular singer Ed Sheeran and his challenges as a young person.

Singer Ed Sheeran

As a young kid growing up in England, he stuttered horribly, wore oversized glasses and said other kids mocked him.

However, he was able to sing in the church youth choir, then learned how to play guitar, and discovered he could write music of his own. Amazed by the speed at which singer Eminem could rap, Sheeran memorized the songs and said it cured him of stuttering.

Music became a passion of his and he played backup in local bands until deciding he would have to go to America to make it in the music world.

"I arrived in LA without a contract or a place to stay," he said of his determination, against all odds.

Promoting himself, Sheeran got to play on a radio show, where the DJ was so impressed that he insisted Sheeran try performing on stage by himself. That DJ was actor Jamie Foxx. Sheeran was nervous, but went on stage and got a standing ovation. Singer Taylor Swift heard him sing and subsequently asked him to go on tour with her, and now his songs top the charts.

"Not bad for a guy with only one ear drum," Sheeran said.

He said of all the awards he has gotten, what means the most to him is being able to teach awareness about stuttering to others.

"Quirks seem weird when you are young, but they make you stand out when you are older, and that's important," Sheeran said.

Superintendent Stefanie Garber talked to students about the qualities they need to be successful in life.

. Empathy was at the top of the list. "Try to see things from another's perspective – walk in their shoes," she said. You don't really know what's going on in another person's life until you get to know them. "We all have struggles and successes," she said.

. Turn anger into compassion. "Focus on similarities. We're all striving for happiness. Don't be blinded by differences," Garber said.

. "Think before you type and text," Garber stressed.

Students were invited to join the Lift Each Other Up Challenge, and spend the next 18 weeks making a positive difference in the school and their community.

A revealing video made by four CHS students was shown to illustrate the struggles or issues others are dealing with. In the video, students held up signs listing challenges they faced.

Messages revealed included: "I'm adopted," "I'm a foster child," "I struggle with alcoholism," "diabetes," "epilepsy," "depression," "My dad was in prison," one teacher's sign said.

Toward the end, signs reminded kids "I'm important," "I'm talented," "I matter," "Were all in this together!"

As students filed out of the assembly, they grabbed orange and black plastic bracelets to show they were accepting the challenge to Lift Each Other Up.

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