BY PHIL CUSTODIO
Clarkston News Editor
Clarkston Area Optimist Club honored Outstanding Student Citizens from Andersonville and Independence elementary schools, Feb. 13.
Andersonville selected fifth grader Keira Walker for her school’s award.
“It’s very awesome. I was surprised a little bit when I heard I got the award,” Walker said. “My parents taught me to be a leader in school. I’m really thankful for them. I’m excited to represent my school as a leader.”
“Thank you, Keira, for always being yourself, which exemplifies what being a responsible, compassionate, and caring leader is,” said Jen Breen, fifth grade teacher.
The Optimists honor one student a year from each school in the Clarkston area, inviting them and their families to breakfast and presentation of a plaque. Walker was at the Feb. 13 presentation with her parents Kyle and Krista Walker, siblings Allie and Bodie, and grandparents Bruce and Karen Walker.
“When Clarkston Area Optimist Club asked us to choose only one fifth grader who was responsible, compassionate, and a caring leader, Keira’s name immediately came to mind,” Breen said. “She is a quiet force, one who works her kind and caring magic subtly. She is the person who is looking out for her peers and brave enough to include others, especially at recess or free choice time. When working in learning partnerships, Keira can be found being a compassionate and empathetic listener and teammate. When I search the room for someone who can help me with a task, such as pairing with another student to be a math helper, it is Keira that is a fast acting and a responsible friend.”
Keira is a greeter and song leader during school wide assemblies, assists Young 5 students during their art/music/gym/Spanish classes, and acts as a peer mentor to them. During recess, she is part of the K’Nex program, which connects compassionate fifth grade leaders with students who have special needs in order to make recess a fun and inclusive time for all.
Representing Independence Elementary for this year’s Outstanding Student Citizen is Justin Strader.
“You have a pure heart and character. You seek the positive in life and in people,” said Principal Nate Fuller. “Independence was blessed when your mom decided to bring you over to Bronco land. The kids and staff get to hear you say hi and give Bronco Bumps. You always ask me, ‘how are you, Mr. Fuller,’ followed by having dialogue about life.”
Strader is responsible, respectful, and a leader, said his teacher, Jessica Cameron.
“Justin is one of the most responsible young men that I’ve ever met,” Cameron said. “He is always thinking ahead, is prepared, is ready to learn and do his best. Many days Justin arrives at school earlier than the other students because his mom works in our building. He will often check in with me to see if there are any tasks I need completed. There is nothing that I ask of Justin that he doesn’t do eagerly and with a smile. Justin shines with pride when he is able to give back to those in our school.”
“I like being a leader in Mrs. Cameron’s class,” said Strader, who was taught leadership by his parents Steve and Kim Strader, and teachers. “I feel very good about it. I just like to help out.”
His favorite part about school – “I get to meet a bunch of unique people and make friends,” he said.
Justin is also a respectful student who approaches situations with a thinking, win-win attitude, Cameron said.
“He starts his day with a smile and a hello for everyone he sees. He listens to others’ thoughts and points of view and will share his thoughts, if to the contrary, in a kind and respectful manner,” she said. “Justin is often aware if something needs to be done or isn’t as it should be in the classroom or with our schedule for the day and will come to me right away to let me know. He is articulate and expresses himself with a maturity beyond his years. He is an excellent role model for his peers.”
He is a Safety Patrol member, helps his mom with students in the school’s level 4 classroom, and participates in Coding Club, Math Olympiad, and LINKS. He also is a Student Council representative, and participates in the Junior Optimist Club after school and Battle of the Books. Outside of school, Justin is actively involved in his church as a greeter, altar boy, and youth choir. He participates in Sunday school and volunteers at Lighthouse of Pontiac, singing at an area nursing home and making cards for senior citizens during the holidays. Lastly, Justin is a member of the theater group at Mt. Zion.
“Justin is a true leader,” Cameron said. “He lives by the Seven Habits approaching many life situations in a proactive manner, and always begins with the end in mind. Justin was recently voted, by his classroom peers, as the student in our class that best displays leadership traits. Everyone around Justin sees what an exemplary young man he is. Added to this, Justin is involved in so many extra curricular activities that it’s hard to imagine how it finds time to do it all.”