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January 24, 2012 > Oliveira Junior Ambassadors lead the way

Oliveira Junior Ambassadors lead the way

Article and photos by Miriam G. Mazliach

Everyone likes or wants the opportunity to be considered special, and that's the case with the newly created "Oliveira Junior Ambassadors" program beginning at Oliveira Elementary School in Fremont. To add to the palpable level of excitement, the school held a kick-off celebration for students, parents and guests on the evening of January 10.

Ian Squibb, the Deaf & Hard of Hearing Specialist at Fremont Unified School District (FUSD), helped to develop the unique program at the suggestion of the school's Principal, Linda Anderson. "The goal is to promote kids with leadership skills to realize the potential they have," stated Anderson.

Currently assisting at Oliveira Elementary while he is pursuing his Administrative Credential, Squibb explained that he needed to choose a project. "Principal Anderson gave me some background on a similar program, begun at Centerville Junior High School, by teacher Dawn Troupe-Masi which encourages leadership skills in their 8th graders to mentor struggling 7th grade students and help them rise above," added Squibb. The program has proven to be successful at Centerville in that both grade levels of students benefited from the interaction and improved academically and socially.

Squibb not only wanted to expand upon those ideas, but more importantly develop his own program with the focus on the elementary school age population, such as at Oliveira.

From all the fourth, fifth and sixth grade students at Oliveira, 25 were selected by Anderson and Squibb, among those nominated for their leadership capabilities by teachers and their peers.

According to Squibb, he plans to have the "Junior Ambassadors" meet weekly, during lunchtime, to teach leadership, mentoring and problem solving skills, as well as work towards a goal of building self-esteem and recognizing the value of helping others.

"This program has the potential to be great," said Squibb, "especially if it can help any underachieving students reach their potential."

Squibb hopes that, at least once a month, there will be also be opportunities for students to participate in group activities or service learning projects in the community. "In this way, students can see the changes they can make and decide how they are going to make a difference with younger students [in grades K-3]," added Squibb.

Both Anderson and Squibb want the students and parents to demonstrate commitment to the program and mentioned that they will encourage the students to talk to parents about what they are learning.

As for the evening's festivities, although the students had received invitations to attend, they did not know for certain that they had made it into this inaugural group of "Oliveira Junior Ambassadors." But soon, beaming faces and huge smiles followed, once Ian Squibb began to announce each of their names and receive a certificate and t-shirt, making it official.

Fourth grade student Ilene Avila remarked, "I'm really happy because I never thought I could be an Ambassador. I'm looking forward to helping people."

Anderson and Squibb were most appreciative of the generous financial sponsorship provided by the Fremont Rotary Club and an anonymous donor, for the purchase of posters and curriculum materials from Stephen R. Covey, "7 Habits for Kids." Additionally, for the event, Nothing Bundt Cakes, Fremont Flowers and Texas Roadhouse, provided decorations and cakes, for the enjoyment of the attendees.

The "Oliveira Junior Ambassadors" program is off to a great start. The plan is to build the program for two years with fourth through sixth graders and then empower K-3 graders to "pay it forward."

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