‘Project Champion’ has students running for gold

Vista del Valle Elementary and Oakmont Outdoor School are helping students focus on character building. Both schools are participating in “Project Champion” in connection with two-time Olympic medalist Bryan Clay.

The project has students working towards walking, jogging or running 100 miles by the end of the year, while learning about the traits that define a true champion. At the end, they are asked to write about what traits they exemplify.

Mr. Clay and David Stewart, principal of Vista del Valle, sat down to talk about building project champion around the students of the Claremont schools two years ago.

“[Bryan] had been talking about starting his own running club for years. As part of his foundation he wanted to make it about more than just running. There is a lot more to life than just being a good athlete and he really preaches that,” Mr. Stewart said.

The Claremont schools became part of a pilot program showing how students could benefit from both a mental and physical challenge.

The 10 traits Mr. Stewart and Mr. Clay decided to focus on were: ambition, courage, determination, humility, respect, discipline, perseverance, integrity, confidence and patience. The attributes were then divided in half so the students could focus on five per year.

Every morning Mr. Stewart will remind students of the theme for the month and share a quote in relation to the trait. They will write in class about what they believe the quality means and its significance.

While thinking about incentives for the students, Mr. Stewart mentioned the 100-mile club’s awards as students finished various milestones leading up to 100 miles. When Mr. Clay heard that one of the major milestone awards was a pencil, he remarked that he would be pretty mad if he just got a pencil. Now students are rewarded medals, just like the real Olympic athletes. The 25-mile mark still rewards a T-shirt, but now students receive a bronze medal for 50-miles, a silver medal for 75 miles and a gold medal for 100 miles.

At Vista del Valle, trimesterly assemblies are held to recognize students as they complete milestone markers throughout the year. However, Mr. Stewart finds he will often need to hold impromptu ceremonies so the students do not have to wait for recognition of their accomplishments.

At the end of the year, both schools host a master ceremony to recognize not only the students that completed 100 plus miles, but also the best writers in the respective grades. Mr. Clay will visit the school to share his story of becoming an Olympic gold champion and place the gold medals around the necks of the students being honored.

The promise of recognition has some students pushing themselves to go beyond the needed 100 miles. At Oakmont, two fifth graders have already hit 85 miles. Last year they had a little over 150 miles documented and were recognized for their achievement in front of the entire school.

“They have been running, walking and jogging not only for their set time but also during lunch. They both take it very seriously and are excited to achieve those milestones,” Principal of Oakmont Outdoor School Stacey Stewart said.

Ms. Stewart says she is blown away by how committed the students are to the program. In one of the transitional kindergarten classes at Oakmont, there is even a five year old who has completed 35 miles on his own and is still going.

With the theme for January being ‘determination’ for Oakmont students, Ms. Stewart has had constant reminders that the assembly to recognize their classmates still needs to be planned for this month.

“This project allows the students to see more of the whole ‘healthy body, healthy mind’ push leading to a happy mind. They are discovering that there are different ways they can achieve success and it gives a different outlet to our kids,” Ms. Stewart said.

—Christina Collins Burton



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