“Lollipop Moments” abound at Cottonwood Elementary – Offer sweet & touching thoughts of gratitude for others

HEMET, Calif., — Cottonwood School students were recently empowered by the fact that their small gestures can have long-lasting effects on those around them. What started off as a lesson in leadership from Counselor Amanda Niaves, sparked a sense of gratitude for teachers, staff, students, and family members. 

Counselor Niaves reviewed a social-emotional screener survey from students and found that students were having a hard time finding ways to feel good about themselves. Niaves knew the impact students make every day, not only to each other but to staff as well. She decided to create a lesson for fifth through eighth-grade students to not only show what it means to be a leader, but remind students that they possess the ability to significantly impact those around them. 


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During the first week of September, students watched a TedEd Talk featuring Drew Dudley, an internationally acclaimed leadership speaker, and learned about a “Lollipop Moment”. Students learned that we as individuals can often provide an impact on those around us by a simple gesture, conversation, or moment. These things can become so impactful that they provide the other person with the hope and courage to continue persevering. 

Encouraged by their counselor, students in fifth through eighth grade wrote a letter to someone that provided them a Lollipop Moment. These notes were delivered to teachers, staff, family members, community members, and more. For people that lived out of state or country, students provided their note via text message or email. All of these notes described the student’s gratitude for the other person and the leader they saw them as. Students shared that the recipient of their Lollipop Moment became emotional at their gesture.

Students at Cottonwood Elementary work on their “Lollipop Moment” letters; which are often filled with incredibly insightful and touching messages for their intended recipients. HUSD photo

A student by the name of Brennan wrote, “Dear Mr. Olsen, he was a big lollipop moment. I didn’t really care that much about music before I was in that class. He showed me the beauty of music and how music changed the history of our country. He left our school and I never got to say thanks. But knowing how much I love music enough to be in band for 2 semesters is enough.” 

In addition to the Lollipop Moment, middle school students at Cottonwood provided words of affirmation on a sticky note and delivered them to their younger peers in second and third grade.

The younger students were thrilled to receive notes from their older classmates and shared with their classmates with such pride. 

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Counselor Niaves is hoping this lesson continues throughout the school year and that students are encouraged to provide that Lollipop Moment for each other. Teachers in lower grades have already contacted her in hopes of her providing the same lesson to their students. Thank you Counselor Niaves for a moment of hope and encouragement that you have given not only the students at Cottonwood, but the staff and loved ones of students as well.

Submitted by: Hemet Unified School District

Contact the editor: trevor.rcns@gmail.com

Trevor Montgomery, 50, moved in 2017 to the Intermountain area of Shasta County from Riverside County and runs Riverside County News Source (RCNS) and Shasta County News Source (SCNS).

Additionally, he writes or has written for several other news organizations; including Riverside County-based newspapers Valley News, Valley Chronicle, Anza Valley Outlook, and Hemet & San Jacinto Chronicle; the Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County; and Mountain Echo in Shasta County. He is also a regular contributor to Thin Blue Line TV and Law Enforcement News Network and has had his stories featured on news stations throughout the Southern California and North State regions.

Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back, and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident. (Click here to see segment of Discovery Channel documentary of Trevor’s accident.)

During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations; including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center, and Lake Elsinore Station; along with other locations.

Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team, and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.

Trevor has been married for more than 30 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and his “fluid family” includes 13 children and 18 grandchildren.

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