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BMX freestyle team inspires Cunningham students for state testing
Ty Callais of the BMX Freestyle Team performs a stunt at the Cunningham Elementary assembly on Friday. - photo by ANGELINA MARTIN/The Journal

As students at Cunningham Elementary gear up for state testing next week, Robert Castillo’s BMX Freestyle Team paid a visit to the school Friday to provide some extra motivation.

The California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress replaced the Standardized Testing and Reporting Program in January of 2014. The CAASPP encompasses numerous assessments and student participation requirements, with Cunningham Elementary beginning the Smarter Balanced Summative Assessments on Monday. The tests are delivered by computer and usually take a few weeks for all students to complete, according to Cunningham Elementary Principal Tami Truax.

“It’s a very challenging test, so we’re doing all that we can to motivate the students to do their best,” said Truax.

Truax meets with students one-on-one to go over previous test scores and set new goals for the upcoming assessment, but motivating the entire school as a whole is also an effective way to see improvement campus-wide.

The world-class BMX athletes of the freestyle team did just that, performing bike stunts that had the children jumping out of their seats. The team visits different schools daily, providing bike safety education, Red Ribbon Week assemblies, anti-bullying talks and motivational shows. Pete Brandt and Ty Callais jumped, spun and flipped their way through the exciting assembly, taking student volunteers and emphasizing a single message throughout the show.

“These tricks may take us a while to learn,” said Brandt to the students. “But we learn them through perseverance and never giving up, which is what you all need to take into testing next week.”

The most exciting moment of the assembly came when Brandt asked not for student volunteers, but for teachers that would like to participate in a stunt. Four Cunningham instructors hesitantly laid on the ground while Brandt asked the students whether or not they believed he could jump over them with his bike. After some deliberation, Brandt soared easily over the four teachers to much applause from the students.

To end the show, the most dangerous stunt of all was performed when Callais hit the bike ramp at full speed, back flipping through the air and landed safely on the other side. After the students’ cheers died down, he reminded them the importance of wearing a helmet, tapping his own.

Students lined up for autographs from Brandt and Callais after the assembly, with some receiving posters, pictures and even an autographed hat. If their smiles and laughter foreshadow how the CAASPP will go, then they’ve got it in the bag.