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The City Journals

Olympic line-up encourages Draper youngsters to read, set goals

Apr 30, 2022 10:03AM ● By Julie Slama

Draper Mayor Troy Walker took the time to be a guest reader, encourage students to read about their passions and answer student questions during Draper Elementary’s literacy week. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Between the 2022 Winter Olympics and the Paralympics, there was another Olympics—Draper Elementary’s Olympic literacy week.

The goal was for the 700 elementary students to read and reach its 125,000-minute goal in five days.

To kick off the event was 2010 Olympic Freestyle Skier Lacey Schnoor DeLoach, who wore her USA ski team jacket, and 2002 Olympic torch bearer Bob Cole, dressed in his torchbearer’s uniform carrying his torch.

Cole, who has granddaughters who attend Draper Elementary, was selected from 50,000 Utahn as one of 3,500 torchbearers. He acknowledged when he sets a goal, he has help along the way.

“All you have to do is set those goals and your team—your parents, and teacher—can help you achieve these goals and many others,” he said before leading the student body in cheers.

Schnoor DeLoach, who attended Draper Elementary from 1990 through 1996, related her Olympic journey to the students with the underlying message of not giving up.

The former level 9 gymnast began competing aerials after being identified at Crescent View Middle School doing flips on a bungee system as part of a program that introduced local athletes to take advantage of the facilities being built in Utah for the 2002 Winter Games.

“They asked me, ‘do you want to come try aerial skiing?’ and I said, ‘sure,’” she recalled, adding that she wasn’t even sure what the sport entailed.

Schnoor DeLoach began training as a U.S. Ski Team member and commuted to Park City as an Alta High student, where she was a varsity cheerleader. Her last two years, she was on a ski release, which made it easier to balance her schoolwork with her training.

“Once I made the U.S. Ski Team, I knew I wanted to go to the Olympics,” said the 2005 national champion. “I trained really hard, and the first Olympics I tried to make was in 2006 in Italy. I just barely missed being able to go, but I didn’t give up.”

Schnoor DeLoach continued her journey. In 2007, she finished eighth in the World Cups. In 2009, she placed seventh in Freestyle World Ski Championships in Japan.

The summer before the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, she introduced a triple twisting double back flip.

“I did 10 of these jumps every single day all summer long. By the end of summer, it was the best job that I was doing,” she said, but adding that she had to transfer that jump from water to snow.

She remembers the first time she jumped.

“My first double backflip on water was pretty nerve wracking,” she said. “Then those first jumps on snow, it was pretty big. Even after years of training, when you go from water to snow and you haven’t done those jumps in a couple months, you just have to have faith that you remember how to do them.”

At the Olympic trials, Schnoor DeLoach competed her new jump.

“I landed it and won the event. It was awesome. It was so fun—and I got to represent the USA in the Olympics,” she said. “Competing for the U.S. and against all the other athletes, the best in the world, is really quite the experience.”

At the Olympics, the then 24-year-old landed her two hardest jumps and finished ninth in the debut of the women’s aerials event as an Olympic sport.

“My message to all you guys is never give up. I could have given up after my first attempt (to make the Olympic team), but I didn’t. I began training really hard and met my goal,” she said. “So set goals this week for your reading and in other things you want to do. You guys can achieve anything you want to do.”

As a reminder to read, every student received a USA slap bracelet and could dress daily to match the color of an Olympic ring. When they met their daily collective goal of 25,000 minutes, a ring was put up outside.

Posted in the cafeteria, a skier tracked the minutes the students read and when students turned in their reading each night, six names were randomly drawn as winners of USA beanies.

Volunteers came during the week to read to students, including Draper Mayor Troy Walker.

Walker, who read a portion of a book to older students about the Wright Brothers inventing the airplane—“the greatest invention of all time”—shared with them he has his own pilot’s license.

“Find what your passion is, read about it, learn about it,” he said.

Walker read for the first time “Duck for President” to younger students, and said the picture book was “very true, an accurate account of campaigns.”

He also answered students’ questions: “Is it hard being mayor?” “Sometimes.” “What’s your favorite part?” “Helping people.” “Do you live in a big house?” “Sometimes it’s too big.” “What’s the worse part?” “When people are mad at you.” “Can I have $20 million?” “I have $20 million in Monopoly money I can give you.”

By the week’s end, Draper students reached their reading goal and as a reward, they each will receive a book from the PTA and had a free skate night at Classic Fun Center. 

At the closing ceremony, Miss Draper Grace Mead, who spoke at the opening assembly, presented the top three girls and three boys per grade with medals sporting red, white and blue ribbons.

“It’s all in fun, to get kids excited to read and keep them reading,” said Timette Wankier, Draper Elementary PTA public relations vice president. “Reading and striving toward goals will make a difference in everything they do in their lives.”