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The City Journals

Students sing songs with powerful messages

Mar 08, 2018 03:06PM ● By Julie Slama

Entertainer Steve James joins Jordan Ridge Elementary students in a community concert where students perform character education songs. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

When Jordan Ridge students sang, “I’ll be nice; I’ll be kind; treat others right — made up my mind,” the audience of about 1,100 clapped right along.

The message may be simple, but powerful, said South Jordan Mayor Dawn Ramsey, who also serves as PTA Region 6 director.

“Character education is an important part of education,” she said. “Steve and Lisa James’ songs teach about character to our Jordan Ridge students and reinforces the values that are so important for our kids.”

Ramsey said the songs’ messages go deeper than the catchy tunes.

“Kids now are growing up in a digital world, so others who feel they are anonymous are bullying online or our kids are comparing themselves to the best version of others and are being affected by social media. Steve and Lisa’s songs reinforce the value that everyone has value and respecting others and themselves is important,” she said, adding that she appreciates them sharing the messages within Jordan School District schools.

Steve, who has been sharing the word through his children’s music series for more than a decade in Utah, came to present the community concert as part of his “Communities to the Rescue” concert model. It was sponsored by Jordan Education Foundation and hosted by Jordan Ridge Parent-Teacher Association.

Steve, and his wife, Lisa, met with students at an assembly, then over the course of a month, teachers selected and taught each grade songs, which they performed with the singers Jan. 11 on Bingham High School’s stage. Between the songs, James would deliver messages.

“Research shows that children do listen to their parents, so it gives time for the parents to hear the messages of prevention from their children and see them perform,” Steve said. “It gathers the community together from community leaders to the actual kids to realize the importance of the messages in the songs.”

The messages are motivational, sprinkled with comedy, he said.

“The kids like to have fun, and we like to have fun, so it’s awesome community gathering,” Steve said. “Through the songs, students learn to be kind and respectful of one another, as well as say no to drugs, alcohol, violence and crime. The feedback from parents is positive. One mother came up and said that they listen to my music while in the car, so they’re reinforcing how to make good choices. Kids thank me for teaching them how to make good decisions, and they remember these songs.”

Jordan Ridge PTA president Todd Hougaard can attest to that as he remembers songs such as “Be Nice, Be Kind” and “Buckle Up” from when he first learned it a decade ago.

“I’ve known Steve and Lisa for 10 years and thought this would go hand-in-hand with our anti-bullying message, but in a positive way,” he said.

The focus on anti-bullying is in response to a parent survey at the end of last school year that asked parents about concerns. Anti-bullying and internet safety were top issues, along with the statewide PTA concern on student suicide, he said.

“As Steve goes through these songs at the assembly, he gives mini-lessons to the students, and the teachers explore and talk to students about deeper meanings,” Hougaard said. “The kids are so excited, and it provides a positive memory around an experience that will stick with them the rest of their lives.”