Erica Carraballo is a bright-eyed fifth-grader at Reedy Creek Elementary, but one day last week she was transformed into a scared, shy and lost kindergartner in tears.
Her friend Paola Montes, like Erica a fifth-grader and safety patrol officer, moved in to help, taking her hand to calm her fears and suggesting they find her teacher together.
Across the multipurpose center, Jake Allison pretended to run down a hall as fellow fifth-grader Jack Johnson motioned him to stop.
“You can't run in this school,” Jack admonished. “It's against the rules. If you continue, I'll have to take this to an administrator.”
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It was all pretend, of course, a function of “Leadership Camp,” which Reedy Creek Principal Lisa Cantrell called for her student council and safety patrol members – on a summer morning when they could have been sleeping or watching cartoons.
In that way and many others, CMS principals are looking for ways to make the Aug. 25 school opening as trouble-free as possible.
For Cantrell, the safety patrol and student council will be her opening-day ambassadors.
“Our school has almost 1,000 kids, and it can be pretty intimidating for a kindergartner coming in here for the first time,” Cantrell said. “These kids will be stationed on the car lines and throughout the building to give directions. They will be extra sets of eyes to make it a good, smooth opening.”
Safety patrol students are picked by teachers. Student council members are all fifth-graders, elected by their grade peers at the end of fourth grade.
As much as assuring a smooth first day, Cantrell used the camp to stress that she expects much from all those students throughout the year. Among their many duties, they help organize the school's food drive in November and coat drive in December, or the sucker sale at Valentine's.
“I want them to understand that being an elected official requires a lot of dedication and constant giving back to their community,” she said.
The role playing taught them how to help. Team-building exercises taught them to trust.
“I don't mind giving up a morning to come here,” Paola said. “It's good for the school. I'm learning to be a leader, and I hope I can help when school starts.”