Justise Keith nearly jumped out of his shoes when he heard his name called at West Boulevard Elementary School’s gymnasium. The second-grader beamed as he walked to receive his brand new bicycle.
Justise was one of 26 students receiving citizenship awards at this trimester’s Pride assembly Thursday afternoon. The children received the awards for good behavior, such as being helpful in school.
All the recipients’ names were entered in a drawing to win a bicycle as part of the Columbia Police Department’s educational partnership program, Wheels-of-Excellence.
Upon returning to his seat, Justise received a high five from a friend and savored his good luck.
“I was crossing my fingers and so were my friends,” he said.
Officer Kevin Keith, Justise’s father, said he was proud of his son for doing the right thing like he was taught.
Marie Scruggs, assistant principal of West Boulevard Elementary, said the Wheels-of-Excellence program has been well received by the students, providing a tangible reward for doing the right thing.
“It’s tied into the whole citizenship idea we promote,” she said.
Sgt. Danny Grant of the Columbia Police Department’s Community Services Unit said that the program has been effective.
Grant told the story of a high school student who had received a citizenship award back in elementary school. Years later, he remembered Grant and said hello to him at a football game.
“The kids remember being recognized in a positive way,” Grant said.
The Wheels-of-Excellence program was started during the 1997-98 school year by the Columbia Police Department, West Boulevard’s partner in education for the past 11 years. The program’s goal is to show students that it pays to do the right thing, Grant said.
This year, the Sunrise Optimist Club and K-Mart joined the police department and West Boulevard in sponsoring the program.
After the assembly, Justise took an opportunity to pose by his new wheels. Despite Thursday’s frigid temperatures, Justise said he was going to ride his new bike when he got home.
The following students received citizenship awards: Kelsey Morris, Jadaunte’ Sutton, Rachel Hall, Tyreke Miller, Emily Pursifull, De’Lonzo Sams, Eddie Barrett, Crystal Jones, Spencer Rowe, Geoffrey Miller, Kaitlin Hall, Justise Keith, Jessica Clevenger, Michael Barnes, Eric Botts, Skylar Bias, Terriana Kirby, Tameka Griffin, Angenique Thompson, Alex Keith, Kaiser Martin, Mary Cason, James Wyatt, Katrina Smith, Aisha Bryant and Quanah Leija-Elias