I Matter project

Calaveras County Superintendent of Schools Scott Nanik stands among the photos in the "I Matter" gallery.

A project called “I Matter” at two Calaveras County schools is helping students feel valued, build a sense of connection with each other and to the community, and highlight individual worth. This first-time project has had a positive impact on students, staff and family members as they view all the faces on display. 

Participants were asked to write down why they feel they matter. Pictures were taken with the participant holding their paper displaying their answers. Each picture was then carefully mounted on colored paper and displayed throughout the cafeteria at Mark Twain Elementary. 

The black-and-white photography used was to equalize and unify all the faces.

The project was a major undertaking and was a labor of love. Both schools in the Mark Twain Union Elementary School District participated. At Copperopolis Elementary, those who assisted included Brice Maygren, Samantha Austin, Amy Kilgore and Mark Twain Superintendent Paula Wyant. Austin and Wyant also helped at Mark Twain Elementary along with Tamsen Lenior, Tonya Ziehlke, Christy Miro, Gary Pogue and Dillon Wyant. 

“I think it is important for our students and our community to truly be celebrated for what makes them so special and important,” Paula Wyant said. “And, by having to write it down and have a picture, I think takes the affirmation to such a concrete level. It was especially important that this project move forward as we entered into our first year returning to campuses in a traditional way after having so many bumps in the road since March 2019. This was truly a blessing to me as I haven't been with MTUESD very long, and all in the midst of COVID, so seeing all the faces who make up both school communities in such a profound way will stay with me forever!” 

“A focus on student mental health is more crucial more now than ever,” said Calaveras County Superintendent of Schools Scott Nanik. “Projects such as this help remind students that they are important, they matter and each of them as individuals are valued.” 

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