Fifth graders honor a 'buddy' who drownedAn idea and a little persistence paid off for a 5th grade student at Carlos Elementary School.
By: Celeste Beam, Alexandria Echo Press
An idea and a little persistence paid off for a 5th grade student at Carlos Elementary School.
Austin Johnson-Wakely told his mom, Carrie Korman, he wanted to do something to honor a kindergartner at his school – Kortni Botzet.
Botzet died after drowning in a hot tub at the Holiday Inn in Alexandria on May 2.
In an interview Monday afternoon, Korman explained that at Carlos Elementary School, the 5th grade students are paired up with the kindergartners as part of the Kindergarten Buddy Program.
Although Austin was not paired up with Kortni, he knew her and was affected by her death.
Being a small, family, community school, said Korman, most of the students, regardless of grade, know each other.
Korman said her family heard the news about Kortni a day after it happened. They talked about it at home, but Austin told her he “really wanted to do something to honor Kortni.”
His ideas included T-shirts, bandannas or something else that the students could wear to honor their classmate.
Her son kept asking her about it, so Korman e-mailed his teacher, Tim Urness, to find out if something could be done.
“He was persistent about it,” Korman said of her son.
When she e-mailed the teacher, Korman told him she would take it upon herself to do the project, whatever it turned out to be, and after a couple of weeks, she got the approval to do something.
After doing some research on a couple of different ideas, Korman and her son decided to do bandannas, which would be worn by the 5th grade class at their track and field event.
Because the event was fast-approaching, Korman said she contacted Cowing Robards to see if it could expedite the project. She was told the store could, and so she and her son worked with a couple of employees to come up with a design together – a purple ribbon encircling Kortni’s name and the message, “Forever our kindergarten buddy.”
“He [her son] really liked the design,” said Korman.
The bandannas, which were actually modeled after the Homer Hanky, said Korman, were finished on time and Korman picked them up last Monday. The track meet, which is where the students planned on wearing the bandannas, was set for last Wednesday, May 19.
Because more than one school is involved at the annual Track and Field Day event, Austin’s teacher wanted the emcee of the event to announce why the kids from Carlos were wearing the bandannas. The announcer called Austin to the stand.
“Austin was put on the spot and he did well,” said his mother. “Apparently, there wasn’t a dry eye on the field after he explained who the bandannas were for.”
Korman explained that they never contacted Kortni’s family, but that they heard about what Austin had done and asked for all of them to meet.
Last Friday, Korman and her son met Kortni’s family and presented them with a bandanna.
Korman said both she and her son have been humbled by this experience and that her son never meant to get so much attention. “He even asked me how such a small gesture could become such a big thing,” said Korman. “I think for him, this was something he just needed to do to move forward. It wasn’t about him or about me, this was about Kortni.”