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CANTON -- How many ways can one student represent her school -- its students, programs, and culture? Eighth grader Jacqueline "Jackie" Wells has found a wide variety of ways to embody her school's culture, both metaphorically and literally.
When St. John the Evangelist School in Canton got the costume for its mascot last year, Wells was the first student to step up and volunteer to wear it. She appears as the mascot, an eagle named Spirit, at winter sports games and special events such as Grandparents Day, kindergarten graduation, and open houses.
"It's not easy to do. You have to have big movements and every kid wants to get their picture taken with the mascot named Spirit, and Wells does a fantastic job with that," Principal Chris Flieger said, speaking to The Pilot Oct. 9.
The eagle symbolizes the school's namesake and the "soaring language" of his gospel, as well as the school's goal of raising students up "on eagle's wings," Flieger explained in an email.
"We want particularly the younger kids to feel like Spirit the mascot is part of the community, and then what makes it special is actually the person in the mascot costume makes it real, giving high-fives, giving hugs," Flieger said.
Outside the eagle costume, Wells represents St. John's as one of 12 student ambassadors. These seventh and eighth grade students serve the school in various capacities, including acting as liaisons, spokespeople, and tour guides.
Academically and socially, Wells is a Renaissance student. She is point guard on the basketball team, plays the clarinet in the school band, and is part of the stage crew for the drama club. She also represents the eighth grade on the student council, and was elected president of St. John's chapter of the National Junior Honor Society.
Wells also attends the archdiocese's Mission Days and tells St. John's students about the work of the Missionary Childhood Association.
"Jackie Wells, a commissioned Missionary Childhood Representative of the Archdiocese's Pontifical Missions, is the definition of a young woman who embodies all the qualities necessary for the role; she is caring, compassionate, and looks at the world through the lens of one wanting to help and serve others," theology teacher Darlene McKay said.
As one of the oldest members of the band and basketball team, Wells often finds herself leading and assisting younger students. She also helps run activities for the youngest grades, including the after-school program, which she participated in during her first years at St. John's.
"My role is to help the kids have fun but show them how to do it respectfully and safely," Wells said of her role in the after-school program.
Wells "personifies what it means to be a St. John School Eagle. She follows Jesus and strives for excellence every single day," Flieger said.
He added, "I like to hold her up as an example of what a St. John graduate will be. She is hard-working, dedicated, and rigorous."
With graduation coming up at the end of this school year, Wells said she feels "nervous, a little sad, but excited to move on, go to bigger things. This is kind of the foundation. I'm excited to go to high school and meet a lot more new people, have a lot more friends."
Wells said her favorite thing about St. John the Evangelist is the small community. The grades are divided by floor: preschool and kindergarten are on the first floor, grades one through five on the second floor, and grades six through eight on the third floor, which is nicknamed the Eagle's Landing.
"Whatever floor you're on, everybody knows each other," she said.
"I came here in pre-K, so I know everybody. I know all the teachers, which is great because you make connections with people, and students, and I've known people in my class for 10 years now. When I leave, I know that I'll have friends and connections that I probably won't lose, and I'll have for the rest of my life," Wells added.