West Elementary School students saw more than a dozen authors, illustrators and storytellers during the school’s Readers’ and Writers’ Conference held the last two weeks.
Among the highlights was the visit from Ethan Zohn, a professional soccer player who won Survivor Africa in 2002. Zohn, also an author, used a portion of his winnings to co-found Grassroot Soccer, an international organization that uses pro soccer players to educate youth about the dangers of HIV/AIDS.
The event is an annual tradition celebrated by school staff and parents in the West El. community. In addition to the artists, parents come to West Elementary during the week to see the students’ stories, plays and illustrations.
“Every child has an author, illustrator, storyteller, or some talent that needs to be unlocked inside them,” West Elementary School Principal Liz Roos said. “They can see these people — [the artists] are not straight A students that went through school. They’ll tell their life story, and a kid may connect with that and take off from there.”
Roos said parents quickly become fans of the program when they see it.
“I’ve already had several emails from parents about kids coming home and writing, unlocking the writer in even them,” Roos said.
The theme of the presentations by the storytellers this year was “giving back,” according to Roos.
Zohn, for instance, has given back not only through his grassroots soccer program, but by serving as National Ambassador for Stand Up 2 Cancer (SU2C) and he later spearheading the national awareness and fundraising campaign called “Survivor Stands Up 2 Cancer,” an alliance between CBS, Survivor, and SU2C.
Zohn was also featured for his work in the documentary film “A Closer Walk,” according to Roos.
He co-hosts the Saturday ABC TV series, “Everyday Health,” Roos said. The show highlights someone confronting a serious health issue while at the same time leading philanthropic efforts.