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Carlsbad Unified ‘champions’ help mentor elementary students

CARLSBAD — Leadership, mentoring and inspiration are what 34 “champions” are bringing to elementary students in Carlsbad.

The Carlsbad Unified School District (CUSD) “Champions” program is an opportunity for high school seniors to  “serve as role models for the youth of the Carlsbad schools and community.”

Also known as “senior ambassadors,” the older students hope to inspire younger generations through academic achievement and “demonstrating inclusiveness and character to the younger students of CUSD and model this by living with integrity and making positive choices,” according to the school district’s website.

This year, the program evolved to include a healthy habit component after many students were isolated and suffering from a different environment due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

CUSD Student Services Specialist Rosemary Eshelman said the program, which first started in 2012, encourages a mix of Carlsbad and Sage Creek high school seniors to share their academic journey, future goals, personal passions and career aspirations with younger students and community members.

CUSD Champions trading cards. Courtesy photo

“They are ambassadors that go out to the elementary schools,” she said, although due to the pandemic the champions did not have contact with younger students. “They get in front of you people to let them know of their path and what they’ve done throughout school … and how to stay true to themselves.”

Student-champions pick a subject, read a book about it and then librarians at the elementary schools highlight those selections as recommended readings and collaborate with instructors to incorporate those subjects into their curriculums.

Librarians Andrea Oshima and Teresa Timm of Aviara Oaks and Buena Vista elementary schools, respectively, said they also work to share videos from student-champions so each teacher can share those lessons.

“The upper grades reaction has been to the videos has been this is something new, something special and individuals just like us who have been staying home,” Timm said. “Now, they get to see these older kids model these healthy habits. The kids thoroughly love them, and they are so creative. It really engages the student.”

But it’s the “champions” trading cards that are a hot commodity for youngsters. Eshelman said the seniors are “rock stars” in the eyes of the elementary students, who trade and collect students’ profile cards just like baseball players.

Champions Nolan Meja, of Sage Creek, Nathan Lu and Casey Lavin, of Carlsbad High, and their peers haven’t been able to interact in-person with the younger students this year, but they still have had a blast creating and sharing their personal videos to help younger kids develop positive pathways during their academic careers.

Meja has championed how to set goals, along with promoting integrity, strong moral character and academic achievement. Lu presented his passion on environmental sustainability and Lavin helped set up a scavenger hunt in the Village to keep youngsters active.

Meja said he’s also incorporated his career aspirations and encouraging elementary students to dream big. Lu created a Bingo card for students to play, as they can score Bingo by checking specific actions to be more environmentally friendly.

But the three seniors also took lessons of their own from being mentors, Lavin said.

“I knew I had a lot of learning and personal growth throughout high school and my time in the district,” she added. “I wanted to share my experiences with the younger students in order to help them reach their maximum potential.”