Constructing positive relationships through storytime at Rousseau

Members of the LPS Equity Cadre smile with preschool students at Rousseau Elementary School. The four high school students read stories to them and built friendships during the morning event.

Lincoln Public Schools seniors Catrice, Ali, Wid and Jesus drew a blueprint full of friendship-building activities during an educational visit to Rousseau Elementary School.
The LPS Equity Cadre members designed lessons for preschool and third-grade classrooms. They led a storytime session for preschoolers and passed out morale-boosting notes to third-grade students.
Catrice said she was happy to help others during the morning. The Southeast High School student is planning to study either education or business administration at Nebraska Wesleyan University next year. She said these events were important for everyone involved.
“It was really awesome,” Catrice said. “The kids did such a good job of listening and being involved in everything we were saying, and it was fun to talk to them afterwards. I had such a good time. It was fun to get a chance to spread a positive message and have a really good experience with them.”

Rousseau Principal Monica Jochum said the Equity Cadre leaders made a positive impression during their 90-minute visit. She felt there were many benefits to having younger and older students working together.
The four role models taught skills such as kindness, sharing, patience, vocabulary development and fluent reading. In return, they gained confidence in their leadership, organization and teamwork abilities while at Rousseau.
“I love seeing the impact on our younger scholars,” Jochum said. “The high schoolers really inspired them today.”
The Equity Cadre is a student-led group focusing on issues impacting diversity and equity within the district. Members raise awareness about these topics through numerous school and community events.

The group listed several goals for the 2023-24 academic year to Lincoln Board of Education last June. One objective is to provide “innovative and transformative learning experiences” at LPS. Students also want to model “the pillars of equity, civility, justice and kindness.”
Stephanie Emry teaches preschool at Rousseau and has been in the education profession for 25 years. She felt Catrice, Wid, Ali and Jesus accomplished those goals during their visit.
“The high school kids did a great job today, and it was nice for our students to get to meet them,” Emry said. “They look up to them for sure. They think it’s pretty special that these big kids have come here to see them, so I know they enjoyed every bit of the time here today.”
The first cadre-led storytime took place in the 2021-22 academic year and included four Equity Cadre members. Peter Ferguson, coordinator of culture, inclusion and scholar development at LPS, said the number of high school volunteers has grown to more than a dozen this year. That has allowed reading events to happen at LPS preschools, city libraries and other civic organizations.
Preschoolers began the morning by asking their role models several questions, including their favorite cars (Catrice’s was a convertible) and instruments (piano, drums, guitar and vocal cords were the answers). They then sang “Hello, Friends” before Jesus read “The Year We Learned to Fly” and Ali read “Change Sings.”

The Equity Cadre introduced the class to notable historical figures such as Dr. Daniel Hale Williams, an African American cardiologist who performed the world’s first successful open-heart surgery in 1893. They sang an ice cream song before playing games and activities together for 30 minutes.
Emry said NWU-bound Catrice and her teammates gave her class worthy lessons. Ali (secondary education), Wid (political science) and Jesus (advertising/public relations) are all planning to continue their education at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
“We try to connect the kids who are in school here to students who are in high school or people in the community,” Emry said. “It’s really important to do that. We try to tie it all together so they can see where in life they can go.”

The students then met with Grant Aden’s third-grade class. They handed out notecards that contained encouraging phrases to them.
“Sometimes you have a bad day, and you need something to fill your bucket,” Catrice told the class. “We’re hoping this is something that can help do that.”
The recent visit was Catrice’s second time working with younger students. She said it gave her a firm foundation for her potential teaching future.
“To be able to interact with these kids while I’m in high school is such a great opportunity,” Catrice said. “You get to see what it’s like to work with them in a really cool setting, and you can see what it would be like to do this as a career. I’m glad I was able to do this.”
Students will visit other LPS sites throughout March for storytime events. Jochum said it was important for them to realize the significance of their friendship-building blueprint.
“I want them to know how much of an impact they’re making on everyone at school,” Jochum said. “It’s the ripple effect, right? One small ripple can start a whole wave, and that’s especially true when you’re talking about doing good things. They showed a lot of kindness to everyone here today, and that’s something that won’t be forgotten anytime soon. Our scholars are going to remember this.”
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Published: February 27, 2024, Updated: February 28, 2024