Where many groups of elementary school students in their last day assembly might be itching to get out and enjoy summer break, the Tiny Tigers at Fords Prairie Elementary School in Centralia on Friday morning were captivated as they celebrated the achievements of their peers.
As the first order of business after the pledge of allegiance, Principal David Roberts and teacher Dorinda Iverson were tasked with handing out the Noah Markstrom Award, in honor of a Tiny Tiger by the same name who died at age 6 from brain cancer in November 2019.
The Noah Jon Markstrom Foundation, founded by Noah’s family, selects from a list of nominated students one Tiny Tiger who embodies the traits of their beloved son: perseverance, courage, positivity, kindness and joyfulness.
“It’s really hard, so hard to pick one,” said Kyle Markstrom, Noah’s dad, beaming with pride on Friday morning for the school that welcomed and loved his son during his first and final years.
The student they chose was second grader Yoe Rivas, whose father died of COVID-19.
“He has been a model of perseverance. That means getting up, getting dressed and getting to school and doing the right thing when sometimes you don't want to,” Roberts said. “He's been a model of courage by standing right there and just going … ‘I'm gonna get out of bed, I gotta suit up and I gotta show up at school and that's what I do.’ Because it will get better and there is more hope, and there is more joy out there.”
Yoe’s sister, Diana Pineda, was very proud of her brother. She said he deserves the award because, “He’s a very hard worker, after all he’s been through.”
Kyle and Kara Markstrom, Noah’s parents, presented Yoe with a brand new Hot Wheels bike and helmet, a plaque and Hot Wheels toys. Every other student nominated also received gift cards from the foundation.
During the assembly, in a baby carrier on her chest, Kara Markstrom held Noah’s new baby sister Natalie, who was born in April.
“Everyone — don’t yell because we don’t want to scare Natalie — but, say, ‘Natalie, you’re a Tiny Tiger,’” Roberts said.
The students obliged with a group whisper: “Natalie, you’re a Tiny Tiger.”
As the students smiled proudly, parents and teachers wiped glistening eyes. Yoe held his plaque over his face to hide the overwhelming emotion and tears.
The Noah Jon Markstrom Foundation’s mission is to raise scholarships and student loan payment grants for students of pediatric medicine, because of the love and support shared with Noah by staff at Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital.
For more information, visit https://www.noahjonmarkstromfoundation.org/.