Thousands of Clovis Unified teachers and employees celebrated next week’s return to school at an Olympic-themed pep rally on Tuesday.
Jenna Prandini, a Clovis High School graduate, made it to the Rio Olympics and was competing in the track and field semifinals on Tuesday evening.
Led by Clovis Unified Superintendent Janet Young, teachers at the Save Mart Center rushed the stage with Olympic flags representing their respective schools and chanted “go Jenna go.”
The school district continues to be ranked among the best in the state academically and also boasts a competitive sports program. Tuesday’s event recognized several Clovis Unified graduates who have competed in Olympic games, including Nikki Okwelogu, who competed in Rio in shot put for her parents’ native country of Nigeria.
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Rick Merlo, a Buchanan High graduate, helped the U.S. men’s water polo team win a silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Dan Klatt, a Clovis West graduate, also competed in water polo at the 2004 Summer Olympics. Clovis High alum Chad McCarty was captain of the 2000 U.S. Olympic soccer team, and Ruth Lawanson, who also graduated from the district, won a bronze medal in volleyball at the 1992 summer Olympics.
“I think the Olympics and Clovis Unified have so much in common, including recognizing the value of competition. The Olympics are a celebration of the strengths of the human spirit,” Young said. “We believe competition is an ingredient of high standards and an important motivational tool. We believe if we can teach kids not to be quitters by the time they leave Clovis schools, they will probably make it through life … If no one else will compete, our Clovis kids will rule the world.”
Young attributed some of her remarks to former Clovis Unified superintendent Floyd “Doc” Buchanan, who helped create the district nearly 60 years ago. Buchanan died last year at age 91.
“We all know Doc’s legacy. But what is your legacy going to be? What is our legacy going to be for our students and our community?” she said. “You are carrying the torch high.”