Thirteen-year-old Ashlyn Wooden, great-granddaughter of UCLA coach and inspirational figure John Wooden, led a tribute in his honor at Newport Beach Andersen Elementary on Friday morning.
As part of a special morning flag ceremony, Ashlyn read, “Ode to John Wooden,” which she had composed for a class writing assignment on a person of significance or inspiration.
“Like the Pyramid of Success you do your personal best…" is part of the 36-line poem she read to a crowd of more than 400 of her peers, teachers and the many attending school parents.
The K-6 school remains a memorial to Wooden’s philosophies of personal achievement and teamwork.
“Because he’s part of our Andersen family, we decided to do something a little extra,” Principal Mary Monos said. “We always honor him, but especially now we want the children to remember him and the great things he’s taught us.”
Wooden’s Pyramid of Success is incorporated into the curriculum through daily classroom activities and monthly goals. A different “building block” of the pyramid is focused on each month.
The individual values, such as “friendship,” “self-control” and “confidence,” from the pyramid can also be found brightly painted in murals on the walls of school buildings and throughout the playground.
Ashlyn’s parents, Bridget and Greg Wooden, who is grandson to John Wooden, were also in attendance to support their daughter and honor their family legacy.
“We’ve seen over the past week just how many people he’s touched,” Greg Wooden said. “We’re all about celebrating his life now. He lived 99 wonderful years, and he was ready for the next phase in his life.”
Following the poem, several other sixth-grade students read their favorite Wooden quotes. Among them were, “Don’t let what you can’t do interfere with what you can do,” and, “Be more concerned about your character than your reputation.”
Those quotes and other golden nuggets of wisdom can be found adjacent to the main office where a towering 15-block pyramid is posted on the wall. Students scrawl their reflections and personal goals on slips of colored paper, which are then slid into place beneath the foundation of the pyramid.
The handwritten notes create a secondary foundation to the pyramid and living proof of the impact of Wooden’s philosophies in young lives.
Each month students are asked to reflect on and demonstrate different core-values. Last month, the students focused on “confidence” and “poise” and reached their personal best by the end of the month, Monos said.
“Ashlyn really displayed those skills today, didn’t she?” Monos said after the ceremony.
“Ode to John Wooden”By Ashlyn WoodenAlways there with usWe talk about you at flag deckOur pride awards have the pyramid on themYou show us how we should behaveWe learn lots about you and your lifeYour words of wisdom inspire us to do the right thingQuotes by you and about you help us learn right from wrongWe see you a lot when you visit our schoolGood coach and teacherAlways follow what you say and the Pyramid of Success, too ...You have great behaviorYou do the right thing or the better choiceYou care about othersLots of kids and adults look up to youYou work hard and are enthusiasticYou represent our schoolYou’re happy all the timeA role model for many people, including mePart of our OhanaA lucky charm to usYou show friendship and love to othersLike the Pyramid of Success you do your personal bestYou can relate to people very wellAlways have great advice to give to peopleA great person to be aroundYou are very kind and sweet to everyoneAlways in a good moodNever gumpy or mad, always in a great moodYou make others smileYou give others wisdom to learnLots of people know about youYou’re people’s inspirationYou are determined to do things and have skill to do itYou make me happy and in a good mood, as well as others, tooI love your wisdom and inspirationYou’re always there with our school and me giving us inspiration and wisdom.