“GOOD MORNING SANDPOINT HIGH SCHOOL! TODAY FOR LUNCH WE HAVE A TURKEY SANDWICH WITH A SIDE OF MASHED POTATOES AND GRAVY. WHAT JOKE DO YOU HAVE FOR US, ANDREW?”
Every morning at Sandpoint High School, a similar opener resonates through each classroom as familiar faces deliver the morning video announcements. The well-known student-led newspaper Cedar Post has created a community within their classroom; a heartwarming community, to say the least. The Cedar Post staff collaborates with the Life Skills class (Sandpoint High School’s class for special needs students) in order to brighten each morning with a joke and a friendly smile.
Samuel Diercks, a 2018 Sandpoint High School graduate, and Bruin Jones, a senior this year, were the masters behind initiating this collaboration. It initially began when the Cedar Post staff wanted to bring a specific student on to tell a joke. “He always had a joke for us,” Diercks said, “but we technically weren’t allowed to have non-Cedar Post members on the announcements.” After a while, though, “we decided to break the rules a little.”
From that tiny rule break blossomed something extraordinary: a beautiful partnership. Learning together. Laughing together. The creation of lifelong friendships. This escalation was received very respectfully from the student body and faculty. Jones mentioned that the incorporation of the Life Skills students, come to be known as ‘The Boyz’ in the announcements, has been an incredibly beneficial piece of every day at Sandpoint High School. “Because they are seen on the announcements, people passing them in the halls aren’t afraid to say hello. They have put a face to a name and that student is seen by everyone in the school.” Cedar Post wanted to alleviate a sense of isolation—and they successfully did just that.
Andrew Hernandez, a current sophomore, partakes in the video announcements and has done so for the last two years. Through the constant friendship of the Cedar Post students, Hernandez has had the opportunity to transition from being a shy young man who rarely would say “hello” to anyone to being recorded, and those recordings being shown school-wide.
Hernandez’s grandfather, John Juneau, raves about the Cedar Post staff and their willingness to include his grandson along with the other students who participate. “It has been a blessing to us that the Cedar Post students welcomed Andrew to be a part of what they do,” John exclaimed. “We are grateful to the older students who have included him. I know he thinks of them as friends, and time spent with them really helps him to enjoy his time at school.”
Family members are not the only people who get to experience the happiness firsthand. Kristin Storebo, SHS Life Skills teacher, says, “The students are so excited to be a part of morning announcements. I am so grateful for the partnership between Cedar Post and our classroom. The students take such pride in being a part of something with their SHS peers.”
Not only is the Cedar Post staff a part of the creation of friendships, they have also been a main factor of the flourishing of the students they include. Storebo praises the Cedar Post staff in helping develop their friends and their levels of confidence. “They have an increased sense of confidence when they see themselves on the video announcements and feel really connected to the school culture.” And that connection with the school culture is seen every day walking down the halls. “That is the most rewarding part for me as a teacher. I love that everyone else gets a chance to see a glimpse into the personalities of some of these students that others may not have the opportunity to get to know otherwise.”
Jones confidently spoke about what they did to incorporate their fellow students. “They have a great time every day they are in our classroom! I know for a fact that whenever I come back to visit Sandpoint High School after graduation, the Life Skills classrooms will most definitely be my first stop.”
Diercks states that not only has this been an amazing experience for the Life Skills announcers, but it has also been life-changing for the staff itself. “The most rewarding part was definitely watching how excited they got talking about watching themselves on the big screen all the time,” he said. Diercks also mentioned his confidence that there was a reward across the whole staff, not just personal. “I would definitely say the staff created lasting relationships with all the Boyz, and they are all so loved.”
Diercks spoke highly of Jones’s ability to create a solid foundation for this partnership. The desire to keep this tradition in tact is desired by many. Many students and staff really like seeing these students on the announcements every day. Also, Cedar Post Advisor Will Love has the connection with the students as well. From handshakes to joking around off film, Love gives the students one more friend and mentor to look up to within the school.
This partnership has been an amazing asset to the Sandpoint High School environment. It has taught acceptance. It has created friendships. And most of all, it has brought out the beauty that all students at Sandpoint High School bring to our community. All in all, it’s a go-dog day!