Geneva School District 304 News Article

Williamsburg Student Ambassadors: ‘Everyone is Amazing in Their Own Way’

Nora Night at Williamsburg Elementary School 

May 23, 2019

No one is “normal.” We are more alike than we are different. And friendships can spark anywhere if we are open to recognizing our likenesses. 

These are the lessons learned this year by Williamsburg Elementary Students after adding “The Nora Project” to the Student Ambassador Program curriculum (previously known as Student Council). The purpose of the Nora Project is to develop authentic friendships between students of all abilities. This school year, there are 57 student ambassadors, ranging from kindergarten through 5th grade. Their main message is “Anyone can be a leader.” 

From start to finish, the program exemplifies of the many ways students and staff are living the District Vision. 

Complex, Creative & Adaptive Thinkers

Complex Thinkers LogoWilliamsburg Social Worker Kimberly Holstein and Student Assistance Coordinator Julie Klemm attended professional development training last summer in preparation to host The Nora Project after hearing about the program from a Williamsburg parent last spring. 

Learning Behavior Specialist Missy Scheid and Third Grade Teacher Katie Crawford also were involved with implementing The Nora Project. 

Their original inspiration came from reading “Unselfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me-World” by Dr. Michele Borba. “Our goal was to infuse empathy into the Ambassadors program, and ‘The Nora Project’ paired well with the District’s vision,” Mrs. Holstein said.

Collaborative & Productive Citizens

Collaborative Citizens LogoEach classroom has two Ambassadors, who typically participate in after-school training on what it means to be a leader and then report their experiences back to their classrooms throughout the year. The Nora Project began in September, which included training on diversity awareness, building empathy, and understanding what it feels like to have a disability.

The second part of the program, beginning in December, involved “Nora Friend” visits with the Student Leadership Team. 

Nora Friends Kei’anna and Elsa attend the Mid-Valley Special Education Cooperative Program at Mill Creek Elementary School. The students formed kind and respectful connections with each other right away, according to Mrs. Holstein.

“They were just so inquisitive and very careful about how they asked questions. They were thoughtful and kind. Both moms were such great teachers in terms of answering students’ questions. It was very collaborative,” Holstein added.

Self-Directed Learners

Self-Directed Learners LogoThroughout the school year, Ambassadors documented on a tablet each visit with their new friends, including fun activities like freeze-dancing and racing on the playground. The final part of the program for the Student Ambassadors involved creating documentaries about each of their Nora Friends and the friendships formed.

Ambassadors then premiered their videos last week at “Nora Night,” a red carpet-themed event hosted at the school and featuring Kei’anna and Elsa as their guests of honor. Ambassadors wanted the event to be special for Kei’anna and Elsa, so ahead of the film screening, attendees were invited to participate in the various  games and activities they had chosen that Kei’anna and Elsa love. More than 100 people, including families of the students and Geneva 304 staff, jumped right in with Kei’anna and Elsa to enjoy bowling, coloring, and a photo booth complete with props. Then they all sat down to watch the documentaries, moved and transformed when hearing from the students’ words what The Nora Project has taught them: 

“I’ve learned that even if you’re different, you can do anything.” 

“I learned to not be nervous to talk or play with someone who looks or acts differently than me.”

“I learned to not judge people on the way they look or what they can or can’t do.”

“I learned that you should be respectful.”

“I learned that it’s important to think before you talk to others so you don’t say something that might hurt their feelings.”

“I have learned that everyone is amazing in their own way.”

To learn more about the Nora Project, please click here.

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