Students returning for the new school year can feel nervous and overwhelmed, but students at Washington Elementary tried to make sure everyone started their day — and year with a smile.

Yesterday, the school’s fifth graders wrote positive and encouraging messages in chalk on the sidewalks. Kids will enjoy seeing them as they walk into Washington Elementary School today.

“We’re trying to accomplish a couple of things. Number one is we’re trying to put our fifth-graders in leadership roles throughout the school year, and we thought that this was a great way to have them serve as ambassadors for the school and to help welcome back our younger students,” said Washington Elementary’s principal Jill Beam.

Beam and Washington’s fifth-grade teachers and the school’s counselor have been working together to create a positive environment for their students as a part of USD 418’s school redesign which launched right along with the new school year.

“We believe in the power of affirmation... and giving those positive messages to one another is important. We thought it would be a fun, inexpensive thing for the fifth-graders to participate in and welcome the kids back for the open house and back to school,” Beam said. “I think that a lot of the younger students are nervous on their first day. They don’t know their teachers, yet, or if their friends will be in their classes or not. I think if they have those messages leading them into the school it will be a boost to them and relieve any anxiety they may have.”

Beam said she believes younger students look up to the fifth-graders.

In turn, she wants the fifth-graders to be a positive role models for them.

“We really stressed to them (the fifth-graders) that they are role models to these younger students and stressed that they have an important job. We want them to be positive leaders. They have a choice, to be a negative leader or a lead in a positive manner,” Beam said.