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West Valley City Journal

Students learn teamwork, empathy through 5K run

Jul 01, 2022 11:51AM ● By Liz Craker

By Liz Craker | [email protected]

Granite School District’s Valley Crest Elementary and Armstrong Academy hosted “Run In Their Shoes 5K” with the help of the West Valley City police department in May. Parents and volunteers were along the route to cheer on the running students.

The course began and ended at Armstrong Academy with the route going by Valley Crest Elementary. There were 40 students between the two schools in the event. The Armstrong Academy PTA donated a balloon arch and snacks, and the Valley Crest PTA funded award medals. West Valley police officers donated their time to ensure that the roads were safe during the event.

“The race was the culminating effort of students and staff who have been meeting after school during the past several weeks to learn how to better work with one another, how to stand up to bullying, and ways to incorporate healthy habits in their lives,” Valley Crest Principal Michelle Christoffersen said.

To prepare for the run, teachers donated time after school meeting with students twice a week to train. The students and teachers also discussed anti-bullying and relationship building. “They learned to walk in others’ shoes to better understand other people and their perspectives,” Christoffersen said. 

“The 5K was the culmination to celebrate the end of the program for the year and to appreciate the students for participating and being involved,” she added.

Christoffersen, who just completed her fourth year as Valley Crest principal, shared that it has been challenging going through a pandemic. She added that it has been rewarding to see what the school has accomplished.

Denisse Zepeda, Valley Crest fourth-grade dual immersion teacher, said she wanted to start a running program at the school so the teachers developed their own club for the students.

“This past year has been very difficult for me as a teacher, and I know it was much harder for the students. I wanted to do something for the students that didn’t cost them any money,” she said.

Zepeda said that the students had to adapt to a great deal throughout the pandemic. “Prior to this year, they hadn’t been in school for a while, went to school online, and then returned and had to re-adapt to the new way of doing things at school,” she said.

Students returned to the school building after online learning and they did not always understand the “why” behind the pandemic rules, she said. For example, students returned to school and had to wear masks and they could not work in group settings anymore.

Zepeda said that during the weeks of the club meetings there were many students struggling to practice, and many were scared about doing a 5K run. “They didn’t think they could achieve it in any way at all, yet all of my students came to the finish line,” she said. 

“One student finished in 24 minutes, which was quite impressive,” Christoffersen said.  Christoffersen wants to repeat the program in future years with fundraising so the students can have event T-shirts. She was pleased with the students and the turnout.

“The weather was beautiful,” she said. “We couldn’t have asked for a better day.”