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Students focus on their heroes

By Clay Wilson

Bobby Elliott has a special hero. His hero isn't a comic book character or a soldier. His hero is his Nanny.

Elliott and his classmates in Jenny Lester's fifth grade class at Smith Barnes Elementary School submitted essays to the Daily Herald and News Daily's stating who their heroes are as part of the papers' "Hometown Hero" special. Lester's class gets copies of the Daily Herald through the Newspapers in Education program. She said she saw the essays as a way to help her students break out of the sometimes self-centered world of fifth graders.

"I want them to – reach outside of themselves, to reach out unto the world," she said, "and focusing on someone else in this way is one way to do that – to focus on the effect someone else has on their lives."

But she also said she appreciated that the essays centered on local, everyday heroes.

"I liked it that your newspaper was focusing on hometown heroes while the world was focusing on heroes far away," she said.

The students are in Lester's Language Arts class, so her students spent several days drafting and revising their essays.

"They were willing to work hard on it because they cared about the people they were talking about," she said.

Most of the students wrote about their parents.

Christine Fredricks said she wrote about her mom, "because she helps me with problems – and helps me do a lot of stuff."

Kensley Smith wrote about her neighbor, Mike, who came to check on her and her friend when they called him after hearing a noise while staying home alone.

Kensley defined a hero as "someone who tries to save you.

Jasper Dunn defined a hero as "Someone who helps people." He wrote about his father.

But one essay in particular that impressed Lester was that of Elliott, who selected his grandmother as his "#1 Hero."

"She is there for me when I need her," Bobby wrote.

He wrote about his Nanny's career as an employee in a department store fabric department.

"She helped a lot of people find things. She would take the time to show them how to make things," he wrote.

He also described how his grandmother fixes his clothes, watches movies with him, cooks his favorite things to eat and cheers him on at his soccer games.

Lester said Bobby's essay stood out in her mind "because of the detail he included of the things he appreciated about his grandmother."

But Lester, of course, said she has a special fondness for all her students' essays.

"I'm very proud of their work," she said. "They worked very hard on it."