Originally published June 18, 2018 in the Murray Journal.
By Julie Slama
Liberty Elementary’s Carlos Nieto-Rosales set a goal — to be the first fourth-grader to cross the finish line at his school’s fun run.
In preparation, he not only ran with his class and trained through physical education, but he played soccer three times a week and found time to run around his neighborhood doing both sprints and some distance workouts he created himself.
“I don’t want to stop running,” he said. “I want to make my mom and dad proud.”
The fun run also served as a fundraiser for Chromebooks, so Carlos went about raising $80, which he donated to the school.
Carlos, along with his schoolmates, ran the newly designed 1-mile course through the school neighborhood, where police and parent volunteers lined the course for assistance, and residents joined cheering on 374 students.
His goal paid off, as he was the first fourth-grader to finish, doing so in seven minutes 11 seconds. The school, which had contributions at $15,007 as of press deadline, was still adding up any last-minute donations from both the fun run and barbecue held afterward.
Carlos’ teacher wasn’t surprised.
“He’s a good runner and a good student,” Toni Wilkins said. “Some of our students really went after getting donations and brought in around $800 for Chromebooks. We use them for math, writing, SAGE testing and educational games. Times are changing, and these students are tech savvy, so we need to change our teaching approach. That’s how they’re learning—not by flash cards and times tables. We use Google Classroom so they can log on at home and use it. In class, we can see how they’re engaged and how many students understand concepts, and if they don’t, we know immediately if we need to go back and reteach it.”
Wilkins said that not only do the students appreciate the technology, but they’re motivated.
“I mentioned preparing for SAGE testing (when they’re on the Chromebooks), and they said, ‘Why do you have to bring up testing? We’re just having fun,’” she said. “They don’t always realize they’re learning as they’re doing the activities online.”
The fun run also gives them a break from being in testing mode at the end of the school year.
“They’re out of class, in the outdoors, and it brings together our school,” Wilkins said as she cheered the students running.
Some teachers, like fourth-grade teacher Mike Okumura, ran with the students.
“The students look forward to this, and many of the girls participate in Girls on the Run, so they’re prepared for it,” he said.
Katelyn Jorgensen was the first female finisher for fourth-graders, she ran a time of seven minutes 57 seconds and is part of the program.
“It was really, really fun to be out with friends and running,” she said. “Girls on the Run helps us to be positive with ourselves and others, and that pushes me to run harder. I went out with the attitude that I’m going to do my best, and that is all that matters. But it was fun for us all to do it together.”
Students also participated in the Step Express program—a free program designed by Intermountain Health to help students lead a healthier lifestyle through classroom lesson plans, physical activity and a fitness challenge.
Her husband, Brent, motivated students at the starting line.
“It’s good for the kids to be active,” he said. “It’s a good idea for a fundraiser and for them to set goals — and to celebrate achieving them with Chromebooks.”
PTA President Jamie Hunter said the goal is to provide Chromebooks at a 1:1 student-device ratio.
“We got some last year, so this will about finish up our goal,” she said. “It’s pretty cool to watch students follow the teacher with them. At first, I wasn’t sure about it, but that’s where the world is headed, and this is the way students are learning.”
To help students earn the Chromebooks, Hunter said there were incentives from wearing a crazy hat to school to listening to music at lunch.
Principal Jill Burnside said with the funds they raised, each student has a chance to throw a pie in her face among other incentives such as dressing in their favorite decade and having a dance party.
The top three boy and girl finishers in each grade also will receive a medal at the end-of-the-year assembly.
Hunter said for the past three years, the school has combined the once fitness-only fun run with a fundraiser.
“By combining it, students still get to run and have fun, but we’ve also earned the most amount ever for the school,” she said. “I’d much rather sponsor a student running than purchase something and have only half of the money go to the school. This way, 100 percent of the funds go to students.”
It also brings in the community and parents, with several of them purchasing a shirt to run alongside students, coming to support them and eating a hamburger afterward or being one of 30 volunteers lining the course, Hunter said.
“It’s the ‘funnest’ event at Liberty,” she said. “Our kids worked so hard, and we are grateful to all our community sponsors who support our students.”