KEOTA — As soon as the bell rang, 20 Keota High School students sprinted through the halls of Keota Elementary and into classrooms to read books to students for the biannual reading relay.
The high school students are all members of the show choir, Eagle Rock! Twice a year, members come to the elementary school and read books to students in the preschool through sixth-grade classrooms for about five minutes. When the bell rang, they sprinted down the hallway to another classroom, as if they were in a relay. Following the relay, the choir performed for the students in the gym.
Elementary secretary Crystial Wright said the reading relay tradition began about 20 years ago with the Read a Million Minutes program. Although that program is no longer active, Wright said the high school students are active leaders in the elementary school setting.
“We do a lot of mentoring with the high school, which is something that we’re able to do here as a small district,” she said.
Elementary Principal Alex Klopfenstein said having the high school students facilitate the program is a benefit to both sets of students.
“They’re really successful, so it helps them promote what they’re doing and it helps kids see things other than just athletic events,” he said. “It’s a chance for them because when they were younger it was done to them, so they get to give back.”
He said the relationship the high-schoolers get to make with the elementary students is a valuable one for both parties, especially the elementary students, because it allows them to have people they can look up to for guidance.
“We all know putting kids in the position to be led by other kids is more empowering than by simply adults,” he said. “When they see other students and what they can do when they get older, and they (Eagle Rock! members) remember this from when they were younger, I think it’s just a full cycle thing.”
Jane Edwards, Eagle Rock! director, said having the choir present in the school creates a connection between the two schools which allows for elementary students to see what fine-arts opportunities are available in the district. The choir members, also, get the benefit of having an opportunity to create positive interactions with the students through the reading relay and with the performance they offered following the morning activity.
“It’s a connection,” she said. “They love being back over here,” she said.