Local students illustrate the impact of school attendance

Grand prize winners and runner-ups awarded for 2nd annual attendance poster contest

(Rapid City, SD) 6,477 local students from grades K-5th participated in United Way’s Black Hills Reads 2nd annual attendance poster contest. Amongst the students were 90 semi-finalists; and 6 grand prize winners from each grade were awarded with a set of books and a new tablet.

Winners for each grade level are as follows: Kindergarten, Kensley Jager, of Corral Drive Elementary; 1st grade, Skylar Olson, of Meadowbrook Elementary; 2nd grade, Josiah Coyle, of Black Hawk Elementary; 3rd grade, Georgia Palecek, of Rapid Valley Elementary; 4th grade, Sia Nichols, of Knollwood Elementary (not pictured) ; 5th grade, Alyssa Murphy-Carey, of Horace Mann Elementary.

In addition, the grand prize winners, semi-finalists and schools received a framed photo of their artwork to display wherever they please. Over 264 illustrations were framed.

The students were given guidelines of what they were to include in the artwork, such as the phrase, “Every Day Counts” and the art must represent the importance of daily attendance for student success.

Kayla Klein, Black Hills Reads Director says, “The purpose of this contest is to get students to recognize the importance of daily school attendance. This is our second year in the program, and the positive feedback we’ve received from parents and teachers help keep this program going. It’s also a great incentive to get children excited about attending school.”

3rd grade grand prize winner, Georgia Palecek, of Rapid Valley Elementary, explained that her artwork was of two different scenarios: the left side of the artwork displaying a student missing school who was not sick, and coming back to school the next day and not understanding the lesson. The right side of the artwork displayed the same student present at school and understanding the lesson.

Tracy Palecek, Georgia’s mother expressed, “School attendance is more than book learning; it is about community. It is about students creating those social skills that they may not otherwise build outside of school.”

5th grade grand prize winner, Alyssa Murphy-Carey, of Horace Mann Elementary, worked hard until she got her drawing right.

“When I first drew it (the artwork), it didn’t look the best; so I tried again and I’m really happy with how the second piece turned out,” says Alyssa.  

When asked why school attendance is important to success, Alyssa responded, “Because, this (school) is kind of a once in a life-time chance, and while some kids go to college; some may not and this will be an experience for them when they get a job.”

Alyssa wants to be an artist, police officer or a ghost hunter when she graduates from high school. She likes that being a police officer is an opportunity to help her community.

Principal Kyle Yamada at Corral Drive Elementary, expressed his appreciation for the contest, and the importance of daily school attendance.

“We appreciate that this contest has an engaging message and the campaign aligns with our school’s goal of promoting daily attendance. Research shows when kids are at school consistently, the likelihood of graduation significantly increases,” says Principal Kyle Yamada.

For more information about the attendance poster contest or how to get involved next year, please contact Kayla Klein, Black Hills Reads Director at kayla@unitedwayblackhills.org.

About Black Hills Reads

Black Hills Reads is an initiative under the United Way of the Black Hills umbrella.  Black Hills Reads focuses on helping children reach reading proficiency by 3rd grade. They are the backbone organization that is bringing together partners across sectors to create a greater collective impact on early childhood reading proficiency and make sustainable results.