School raises $265 to help plant peace pole in 10-year-old Miranda Crockett's memory

When Celeste Dryer told her students at Woodland Elementary School she wanted to help Salish Ponds Elementary School plant a peace pole, they quickly rallied.

They emptied their piggy banks. They made signs and wrote morning announcements. They counted thousands of coins. And they prepared a speech for a school assembly where they’d present a check to Salish Ponds.

“We are here today to proclaim violence doesn’t solve anything, but peace can,” the fourth- and fifth-graders said to nearly 600 students, staff and parents gathered at an assembly Wednesday afternoon, each of the 27 students reading a portion of their speech.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Audience members wiped away tears as Choir Director Nancy Ridgeway led Woodland Elementary students in singing 'Shalom, My Friends.'

The Woodland Elementary students raised $265 through the Pennies for Peace Project to help build a peace pole in memory of Miranda Crockett, a 10-year-old former Salish Ponds student who was drowned late last month.

“Peace poles stand on nearly every continent on Earth as monuments of peaceful resolution,” the students said. “Welcome to the club, Salish!”

The Salish Ponds peace pole will be planted later in the year as a tribute to Miranda and as a symbol of kindness and peace. The school will plan a dedication ceremony once it’s completed.

“That you thought about us across the pond during a hard time really says a lot about your school,” Lara Smith, principal of Salish Ponds Elementary, said. “You’re very special to me.”

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Lara Smith, principal of Salish Ponds Elementary, thanked Woodland Elementary for its outpouring of support after former student Miranda Crockett, 10, was drowned last month.

Audience members dabbed their eyes with tissues students had passed out as Woodland students sang “Shalom, My Friends” at the end of the presentation.

Last year, Woodland Elementary also experienced a loss when a boy classmate died of illness, said Rita Gvozdicova, an 11-year-old fifth grader. Students continue to grieve the boy’s death and were moved to help their fellow students.

“They showed so much empathy for our situation,” said Nicole Anderson, Salish Ponds’ counselor.

In the aftermath of last week’s school shooting in Newtown, Conn., the assembly also was a forum to discuss acts of kindness.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Celeste Dryer, a fourth- and fifth-grade teacher at Woodland Elementary, was amazed how her students rallied for the Pennies for Peace Project.

“People feel pretty scared and powerless right now,” Dryer said. “It’s powerful that school and peace are aligned right now.”

Years ago, another group of students helped Dryer collect pennies for peace so Woodland Elementary could plant its peace pole.

The pole reads, “May peace prevail on Earth” in eight different languages and sits in the school garden.

“The peace pole makes me feel safer,” said Shane Goetz, an 11-year-old fifth grader. “It makes me happy.”

The Reynolds School District has pledged to install a peace pole at each of its schools over the next five years. A second peace pole was installed last August at Alder Elementary School as a symbol of reconciliation after the labor strike with teachers last spring.

“As Dr. Martin Luther King told the world many years ago, ‘Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that,’ ” Dryer said. “Our love for our friends at Salish is what brings us here today. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

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