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West Jordan Journal

Super 8: Sixth-graders soar to success

Jun 18, 2018 12:18PM ● By Jet Burnham

Just eight students earned their Soaring Eagle Award every year from kindergarten to sixth grade. (Jet Burnham\City Journals)

By Jet Burnham |  [email protected] 

Eight students from Oakcrest Elementary earned their seventh Soaring Eagle Award this year—the only students to earn the award every single year since kindergarten.

Jazilyn Mayhew, Carson Rasmussen, Savannah Davies, Teanna Sorensen, Kaidence Vance, Kyle Janzen, Madisyn Done and Kambrie Aguirre completed the yearly requirements that challenged them to go the extra mile. 

“It gives me a sense of accomplishment,” said Kyle. “I’ve done something every single year that some kids don’t do.” 

This year, about 16 percent of the students at Oakcrest earned the Soaring Eagle Award, which requires students to complete a list of activities outside the classroom. 

“These are things that each student has to do above and beyond the regular curriculum,” said Jen Aguirre, PTA president. “It takes a ton of work and effort for these kids to get this award.”

Each grade level has different requirements, determined by the team of teachers. The sixth-grade award required students to complete 17 requirements this year. Students served their neighbors, provided babysitting, attended cultural events, developed new skills, planned fitness programs and presented extra reports. 

The students said they have seen the benefit from their years of hard work.

“It teaches us more life skills and things we should do in our community and to be a good person,” said Kyle. 

Madsyn said she has begun a habit of pushing herself to do more than what’s required. Kambrie said it gives her a good feeling to challenge herself.

Sixth-grade teacher Wilma Gustafson said the program encourages students to try new things.

“It gives them a chance to really develop their character and push themselves to go above and beyond,” she said. 

She said it also prepares her sixth-graders for leadership roles in middle school. 

“I feel like it prepares us for next year in middle school, how we can be leaders in that school and be an example—even in the shadows,” said Jazlyn, who feels she can be a leader even if she’s not a student body officer.

Kadience said she had to learn to prioritize her time to fit the extra work into her already busy schedule. 

“I remember in kindergarten it being a whole lot easier,” she said. “My sister is in kindergarten this year, and her Soaring Eagle was done in two weeks, while it took me this whole time to work on mine.”

Janet Craven said for some of her fourth-graders, many of the activities coincided with what they were already doing with their church groups or families. She said many of the kids who earn the award are just naturally “extra-mile students.” 

Christopher Lyon, whose daughter McKenzie is a first-grader, said the award requirements were a good supplement to classroom work.

“All the academics come easy for her, so this gives her something to stretch her,” said Lyon.

First-grader Kyson Nixon’s parents found working on the award was a good way to help their son channel his energy into engaged learning experiences.

He read “Charlotte’s Web” and created his own spider web out of glue, paper and sticks. He also made an ABC Book, writing and illustrating it on his own. 

“That kind of project actually helps keep his focus,” said Kyle’s father, Kent Nixon. “Once he starts the project, he lights up, and we try to let him come up with his own ideas, with his own creativity. I feel like it enriches his learning and creates memorable experiences that will strengthen his classroom studies.”

Kyle’s mom, Kayla, believes the award reinforces life lessons. 

“It helps them realize if you put hard work into something, you get something out of it,” she said.

What Kyle and the other 146 students got out of it was a sense of accomplishment, new skills and a medal engraved with their name. 

Kaidence believes the award is one every student can earn. 

“Not a lot of kids get very many chances to win big awards, and I think especially when you’re younger, it makes you feel really important and boosts your confidence to win it,” she said.