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Beaver School celebrates the launching of leaders
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Kicking off Thursdays open house was a welcome from the Beaver Student Council. Left to right are: Dillon Brush, fourth grade class representative; Treasurer Kendall Fleeman, Social Coordinator Kaydence Fleeman, Historian Jesus Hernandez, ASB Vice President Ruben San Nicolas, and ASB President Delia Vidal.

Third-grader Dilshan Bhatti was dressed sharply in a suit at Thursday evening's showcase of the new Patricia "Kay" Beaver Elementary School. He greeted parents who turned out for the open house, promoted his self-initiated food drive for the hungry - after expressing his sadness of knowing one student saw school as a chance to eat - and politely shook hands when the conversation was over.

It is that kind of leadership at an early age that Principal Libby Holmes wanted to show the community.

Beaver Elementary's theme is promoting leadership.

"I know the leadership concept is fairly new," said Holmes. "When you think about it, it's kind of abstract so we thought this would give the community a good chance to see what the kids and teachers are doing and really what the leadership piece is all about."

Beaver Elementary School is the Ceres Unified School District's first leadership and character development magnet program. The program stresses to students the values in Stephen Covey's "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People." They include: be proactive, begin with the end in mind, put first things first, think win-win, seek first to understand then to be understood, synergize and "sharpen the saw." Covey has a student version of his book, "The Leader in Me," whose principles guide the education of students.

"We are working on teaching those kids the ‘seven habits' so they can start implementing those as students and teach them those 21st century skills that they're going to need in college and beyond."

CUSD Assistant Superintendent Debbie Bukko said the school's leadership and character component seeks to develop academic learning with a focus on critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and leadership skills needed for success. Curriculum is also applied academic learning through the study of earth science systems, natural phenomenon, social issues impacted by science, alternative energy, and green living using inquiry and project based learning. There is also a manufacturing and robotics component that encourages students to develop problem-solving skills, critical thinking, creative and innovative reasoning through application of communication, science, and mathematics learning to real-world engineering and robotics projects. Beaver also helps foster literacy, imagination, competency and creativity in an academic environment infused with arts and Spanish language instruction.

"The focus is on critical thinking, communication, collaboration with service groups in the area," said Holmes. "We want to be developing leaders that are cooperative, responsible, risk takers. Want to give kids the opportunity to try new things and learn from those experiences."

Holmes said the school has accomplished two community service projects and a third one is in the works. Students participated in a Pink Week event in October to draw awareness to breast cancer in which they collected change to donate to the Susan Komen Foundation. Kindergartners through second-graders conducted a Toys for Tots Drive and delivered holiday toys to Richland Ace Hardware. Students will be participating in the Ceres Relay for Life in April with a booth and a team.

"We're really trying to teach them about getting involved in their community, about how to be a leader at home, at school and in our community," Holmes said.

Holm said the school obtained a mini-grant to educate the concept of "sharpen the saw" which is a clever way of getting them to "take care of the body, mind and soul," said Holm. The grant is to help pay for enrichment activities, such as teach yoga or art, taught by community members.

Joleen de Clercq dropped by to check out the school program. She is considering enrolling her son, Ben, when he starts school and said the other campus that has drawn her attention is Lucas Elementary School because it offers dual-language instruction.

As a magnet school, Beaver Elementary draws from the attendance boundaries of all existing schools, not necessarily its geographical region. Beaver Elementary is sized for 650 students, mostly because of the inclusion of a science lab.

The $22.7 million campus was funded entirely by state funds and built south of Central Valley High School on S. Central Avenue just north of Grayson Road.

Among those attending the event were school namesakes M. Robert Adkison and Mildred Lucas.