Lloydminster's student champions

By Jamie Harkins

November 29, 2017 2:26 PM

The Grade 6 class at Winston Churchill School celebrate their chance to interact with Canadian Olympic sprinter Segun Makinde during the Classroom Champions program. JAMIE HARKINS LLS PHOTO

Better gets better.
The Grade 6 class at Winston Churchill Elementary School is taking advantage of an incredible opportunity to learn about the dedication, courage and perseverance needed to achieve Olympic sized goals.
The 24 students are reaching this height thanks to the help of Canadian Olympic sprinter Segun Makinde and the international Classroom Champions program.
Makinde, a member of the Canadian 4x100-metre relay team at the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games, met with the students at Winston Churchill’s classroom 501 through an online video chat on Tuesday afternoon.
The audio-visual equipment used to facilitate this discussion was provided free-of-charge by the Classroom Champions nonprofit organization.
This winter marks the fifth straight school year that Winston Churchill Grade 6 teacher Christine Thiessen has paired her class with an Olympian or Paralympian mentor.
The class is the only one in Lloydminster that is taking part in the Classroom Champions program.
“It’s a lot of social emotional lessons,” said Thiessen. “It just teaches them how to be good goal setters who persevere and work through problems and be great members of the community, so all those skills that will help them out in the future.”
The crowd of kids appeared lost in wonder as they crouched in front of the laptop and projection screen when Makinde first appeared on screen. Giggles of happiness and anxiety were heard throughout the room while Makinde began the session with one of his many funny remarks.
Then one by one the students, who all wore blue Classroom Champions t-shirts with the words ‘Better get better’ or ‘Dream big, commit, repeat’ emblazoned on the back, lined up to ask him a question of their own making.
“He’s a sprinter and there is going to be a lot of weather he’s going to be running in,” said Nathan Lovett, 11. “I just wanted to know which one was his favourite. Apparently his favourite was the one when it’s warm and sunny.”
The classroom chat was the first of two Makinde will conduct with the students this school year. He is also participating in their development by sending the kids a video lesson each month focused on topics such as goal setting, teamwork and healthy living.
“Basically we watch that video,” noted Jenaya Scarf, 11, “and sometimes we paint rocks and we do fill-up sheets about the video we watched.”
Scarf added she asked Makinde what his favourite sport is besides sprinting with his response being soccer.
Other questions from the group of students included whether he had any pets, what his dream job would be and why he decided to get into track and field. The answers were, respectively, once he owned a couple of budgies named Bob and Sara, he’d like to own a business and he wanted to beat a classmate named Philip.
Thiessen said her class’s involvement with the Classroom Champions program began by simply filling out an application form five years ago and then getting lucky enough to have it accepted.
Mentors to Thiessen’s students since that time have been luge athlete Sam Edney, wheelchair basketball player Tracey Ferguson, sprinter Sam Effah, sledge hockey player Kieran Block and Makinde.
“Some of my students from the very first year that I had Classroom Champions,” said Thiessen, “they still talk about things that they learned from their mentor.”

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