Custer Elementary students have had the opportunity to hear many words of wisdom from designated All Star Character Ambassadors Morgan Parys and Noah Zacher these past few months. Both are seniors at Custer High School.
The first of many classroom presentations was to Zacher’s former kindergarten teacher, Conni Virtue’s kindergarten class. Children learned about the importance of having people they look up to for inspiration and help. They learned they have “superheroes” of their own.
Other former teachers included Heather Cooper, Jolene Bush, Cheri Hartman and Lucy Goebel.
“It was wonderful to see them reconnect through this program and get to meet Morgan, who lives in Hermosa,” Custer Elementary Michelle Watland said.
Watland and Brad Keizer, 4-H liaison for the All Star Character program, both agree they can’t say enough about the integrity and positive impact these two students have shown as ambassadors to the elementary students.
“We could not have been more impressed with these two outstanding young people,” Watland said. “They have done an incredible job presenting to each grade level. They have responded well to questions, encouraged students and we have just had a blast working with Morgan and Noah. We can’t wait to see what the future holds for these two students.”
Parys and Zacher wrote, “these past few months, we have been speaking with the children about self-image and how to positively build it up, along with other good character traits. The character theme for our lessons this year has been growing your ‘self’ie. This lesson is important because the impact social media has on our youth is growing and not all of it is good.
“During our visits, we emphasized real models and the good character traits they have. A real model is someone in their life who they look up to. We ask them what good character traits their real models have.”
“My real model growing up was my grandpa ‘Red’ Zacher. He was my real model because instead of day care during the summer I would go over to my grandparents’ house and spend the whole day there,” Zacher said. “Over the course of some of these days, we would go fishing or golfing.
“One of the memories I remember most about my grandpa was before I left his house I would give him a hug, but he would make me run across the room and do a jump stop like in basketball to give him a hug. He showed me how a person should treat other people including people who you aren’t friends with.”
“My real model is my dad because he is hardworking, funny, and smart,” Parys said. “Growing up, he taught me many valuable life skills and helped me become the person I am today. One of these skills is to never give up. In elementary school, I would come home crying because I didn’t understand the math we were learning, so my dad devised a schedule to practice math problems until I became better at them. Math is now one of my better subjects.”
Watland and Keizer said the two gave advice on dealing with bossy friends, how to confront, but then also to do so in kindness. They did an excellent job talking to the kids about how to deal with friends who want them to make poor choices. Both encouraged our students to not push them away, but maybe try to encourage them to do something more positive. They did stipulate, if your friends try to get you to do what you know is wrong, and continue to pressure you, you need to find new friends and that a true friend respects your choice to say no.
Class presentations ended with sixth grade students. Parys and Zacher shared about how junior and senior high is different in both negative and positive ways. They encouraged the students to get involved in activities and form relationships with their teachers. They shared how there is more responsibility on students’ shoulders to get assignments in on time. They also talked about not pushing your parents away.
“Junior and senior high can be tough, your parents are your biggest supporters. The limits they may place on you are for your good and to protect you,” Parys said.
“Use your parents as an excuse if someone is pressuring you to do something you know is wrong,” Zacher said.
Most of all they encouraged them to enjoy the experience and they lamented on how fast the time went by.
After graduation Zacher will pursue a degree in civil engineering at South Dakota State University and Parys a degree in medicine at Augustana College.
“We have no doubt about the excellent professionals and life impacters these two will continue to be at college and throughout their personal and professional lives,” Watland said.