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Ambassador program at RPS 205 helps students, district grow

 

Renee Soliba is learning big life lessons in student ambassador training at Spring Creek Elementary School.

“Don’t give up. Don’t be nervous. You can control yourself,” said Renee, a fifth grader at Spring Creek in the Rockford Public Schools. Renee knows it might be important, though, to give herself some grace.

 “You might act childish,” she said.

Thank goodness for that.  Renee is one of more than 60 fourth- and fifth grade students at nine RPS 205 elementary schools who are at once gaining leadership skills and helping the district fulfill its mission: Be the first choice for all families.

Steven Hullinger of Spring Creek Elementary School talks about his experience as a student ambassador. Renee Soliba (far right) and Evelyn Cruz (second from right) are also student ambassadors.

Steven Hullinger of Spring Creek Elementary School talks about his experience as a student ambassador. Renee Soliba (far right) and Evelyn Cruz (second from right) are also student ambassadors.

Over the past year, the students have given tours of their school to families, community members and the media.

The program helps students develop interpersonal skills like handshakes, greetings and making eye contact. They practice the art of small talk and learn how to speak clearly and concisely. The program helps parents see the school from a student perspective:  What it’s like to learn here?

The student ambassadors were honored last week in a celebration at the RPS 205 Administration Building attended by 140 people.  Principals and parents accompanied the students, had lunch together and watched a video about the program. Some of the students gave testimonials about what the ambassador program has meant to them.

When Steven Hullinger found out he would be one of the students to speak, he wasted no time getting started on his 30-second message. “That day, I sat down to do it. I knew I wasn’t going to memorize it all, (but) I knew I had to get set and ready.” Like Renee, Steven is a fifth grader at Spring Creek. Knowing he is  a role model at the school motivates him to turn in his work on time and make the right decisions, he said.

Although Renee and Steven may not know it, they are part of a wider effort to put the district’s five-year strategic plan to action. They are living examples of separate strategies to improve customer service and help students build social-emotional health and skills. RPS 205 high schools have student ambassadors as well. 

One of the biggest successes of the ambassador program was in February. That’s when Barbour Two-Way Language Immersion students, who had just begun their ambassador training, got a 24-hour notice that Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner wanted to visit the school and get a student-led tour. The students pulled it off and impressed the governor so much, he told them he could use their talents in Springfield.

At Spring Creek, student ambassador Evelyn Cruz hasn’t met any governors. That doesn’t make her takeaways from the ambassador program any less transformational.

“Just be yourself. Be confident. Be loyal to your school.” 

Mary Kaull is strategic communications coordinator for the Rockford Public Schools. Click here to subscribe to this blog. Also, please like RPS 205 on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

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1 Comment

  1. Colleen Holmbeck

    This is a terrific story. Who thought up this program?

    Colleen Holmbeck

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