The parking lot at Centre USD 397 was filled to overflowing Monday as special guests invited by the students came to receive recognition for their support. Students sat with their guests — often parents or grandparents, but also teachers or friends.
Superintendent Jerri Kemble said more than 500 people, including students and staff, attended.
In her welcoming speech, she said in almost 25 years in education, she has discovered two basic types of people: “basement” people who complain a lot and pull people down, and “balcony” people who are positive and pull people up. She said Blue Ribbon Day honors balcony people.
The Rev. Bill Peterson of Herington told the story of how he and his wife, Judy, together with Kemble, organized their first Blue Ribbon Day at another school 13 years ago.
Afterward, the students placed blue ribbon stickers on their guests. The stickers said, “Who I Am Makes a Difference.” The students also presented guests with smooth stones they inscribed with designs or slogans.
Seventh-grader Hannah Hemmer gave her grandmother, Marcia Pagenkopf of rural Lincolnville, a stone inscribed with the words: “Everything will be OK in the end.”
Monte Selby, a native of Council Grove known as “education’s songwriter,” spent the day at Centre. The singer and songwriter was a teacher, middle school principal, and professor. He has made presentations in Europe and throughout the United States.
At Centre, Selby conducted workshops with various age groups, using humor and songwriting to inspire students to create music and be upstanding citizens.
During the ceremony, he performed upbeat songs with his electric guitar and sang with a group of students from kindergarten through fourth grade. His final song was one that several fifth through 12th grade students helped him write, “You Help Me Get There.” It will be recorded and sent to the school.
Ruth Fredrickson of Lawrence was the guest of her granddaughter, second-grader Emily Casey of rural Lincolnville. Casey said she invited her grandmother because “I have fun with her.”
Junior Beka Basore of Burdick invited her former assistant basketball coach, Richard Idleman of El Dorado.
“He taught me how to play basketball and gave me a love of the game,” she said. “He still is always there for me.”
Eleanor Silhan, 7, of Lincolnville invited her mom, Janel. “She helps me with homework,” the first-grader said.
Junior Houston Svoboda of Tampa invited retired teacher Stan Wiles of Ramona to be his guest. Wiles was his coach and picked him up school-day mornings for seven years to take him to weight-lifting sessions before school.
Judging by the turnout and enthusiasm of the crowd, most would agree with Selby when he said, “Today is a day to say, ‘It’s good to say thanks.’”
Kemble said it was amazing to hear the stories that came out of the event behind the scenes. She said one girl wrote on her stone the words of a song her grandmother sang to her when she was a baby.
One woman gave Kemble money to buy shoes for a student whom she saw as needing a pair.
A Kansas City doctor and grandfather of one of the students said the blue ribbon event was the best way to teach children to show appreciation.