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Elementary students learn to serve others

In a packed cafeteria at Wilderness Oak Elementary School, a line of hungry students are ready to eat.

For the youngest diners however, it’s not always easy to get started.

“I had a lot of trouble opening my stuff. Especially when I got salad, I couldn’t open the box,” fourth grader Ben Theesfeld said.

Nine-year-old Ben remembered what it was like to be a Kindergartner struggling to open food containers and milk boxes.

“Opening milk to drink is really important. I just think it’s really helpful to have people on the job working,” he said.

So Ben decided to step in and help. He joined the school’s Tater Tot Patrol.

“The job is to help them open their food and have a good conversation with them. It’s fun to hear what their day has been all day,” Theesfeld said.

“We started it last year as a way to give our fourth graders a way to serve and show their leadership skills in the cafeteria, Assistant Principal Milsi Perez said.

She said it opens up positive conversation between the students and helps brighten their day.

She remembered one moment in particular that she found touching.

“There was one time, a very sweet little boy came into the cafeteria and he was just extra somber that day. One of the Tater Tot Patrols that were assigned to his table went and gave him a hug and helped him open up his food. Then just sat with him for a second and that extra minute of attention, just so that the child knows, ‘I am important and can get help from everyone in the school’ because we are a family,” Perez added.

Students in the Tater Tot Patrol give up fifteen minutes of their lunch time to help the Kindergarteners.

“I have friends in Kindergarten now just from doing this! It just feels good to help them out,” Theesfeld said.

Tater Tot Patrols like Ben continue to spread a positive message.

“I want to be a Computer Scientist. I want to build computers when I’m older. I want to encourage these kids to get a good job and have a good lifetime,” he said.

“I think that one of our purposes is to teach kids that they can serve in little ways or big ways, in any way they feel called to do so,” Perez added.

Discover the NEISD way, where our educators create a welcoming environment for every student. 


Ashley Speller