Area students learn valuable lessons from movie ‘Wonder’

MANISTEE — There are many occasions in life when a movie will touch on a subject matter that is so timely it causes anyone who sees it to pause and reflect.

Students from area schools were given a free opportunity to view the movie “Wonder” at the Vogue Theatre thanks to a generous donation from Century 21 Boardwalk owner Susanne Riley. Fifth grade students from Manistee Catholic Central, Trinity Lutheran, Kaleva Norman Dickson, Kennedy Elementary, Onekama and Bear Lake all saw the movie. The movie shows how to overcome bullies by choosing kindness. (Courtesy photo)

Students from area schools were given a free opportunity to view the movie “Wonder” at the Vogue Theatre thanks to a generous donation from Century 21 Boardwalk owner Susanne Riley. Fifth grade students from Manistee Catholic Central, Trinity Lutheran, Kaleva Norman Dickson, Kennedy Elementary, Onekama and Bear Lake all saw the movie. The movie shows how to overcome bullies by choosing kindness. (Courtesy photo)

When Century 21 Boardwalk owner Suzanne Riley saw “Wonder” at the Vogue Theatre back in December the storyline touched her very deeply. More importantly it made her realize this is a movie that sends out a powerful message that could make a difference with upper elementary school children when it comes to the subject of bullying.

“I just know how tough it can be growing up, as we all do. I’m sure everyone’s been picked on by someone in their life,” said Riley. “It’s never fun.”

The movie “Wonder” — starring Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson and Jacob Tremblay had that type of impact on many people who had the opportunity to view it, including those who viewed it when it came to the Vogue Theatre. “Wonder” is the story of a fifth grade boy named Auggie Pullman living in North River Heights in upper Manhattan. He was born with a rare facial deformity.

After being home schooled by his mother, his parents make a decision to send Auggie to a private school starting with fifth grade, but he gets ostracized and bullied by his fellow students because of his looks. It shows how Auggie continues to choose kindness and finally makes friends, who in the end, that help him overcome the bullies.

Riley knew that there were probably fifth grade children throughout Manistee County who missed the movie when it played here in December. So she stepped forward and offered to pay for all the fifth grade students who are as old as Auggie was in the movie to see it free of cost at the Vogue.

“I just loved the concept of this movie and I felt it needed to be seen by as many kids as possible,” said Riley. “The idea just came to me, and this was a small way of getting the movie out there to them.”

Many of the area students who watched the movie “Wonder” about overcoming bullies in schools also had the opportunity to read the book. Kennedy Elementary School teacher Jaclyn Trahan reads the story to her class.

Many of the area students who watched the movie “Wonder” about overcoming bullies in schools also had the opportunity to read the book. Kennedy Elementary School teacher Jaclyn Trahan reads the story to her class.

Students from Kaleva Norman Dickson, Bear Lake, Onekama, Manistee Area Public, Manistee Catholic Central and Trinity Lutheran schools came to the Vogue Theatre on various days recently to view “Wonder,” thanks to Riley.

Vogue Theatre volunteer and services manager Sara Herberger said it was an incredible act of generosity, and they worked with Riley on providing it for a low cost to all interested classrooms.

“Suzanne  even offered that a portion of the funds could be used to defray some of the cost for transportation barriers as she wanted as many kids as possible to see the movie,” said Herberger. “She felt that strongly that this was a film all students should see. We gained support for this project from local superintendents, principals, teachers and staff, and I am proud to say that all schools in the county were represented.”

Herberger said the response from the kids when they were leaving the Vogue Theatre after the move was great.

“They were excited and thrilled to have this movie-going experience,” said Herberger.

The impact it had on the students was nothing short of phenomenal. Students from Jaclyn Trahan’s class at Kennedy Elementary expressed that many of them learned a great deal from it.

“The movie taught me to judge by the heart, not the image, because you never know who is behind the exterior,” said Sarah Huber. “Never judge a book by its cover — #choosekind.”

Student Isabelle Stensell agreed as did Eowyn Thompson.

“I learned that you choose to be kind even if other people don’t,” said Isabelle. “Also you never give up if people don’t choose to be nice. Finally, I learned that everybody is a wonder.”

“I learned that it’s very important to choose kind because even if someone’s different we are all human and live on the same Earth,” said Eowyn. “I also learned that you should not bully someone just because they don’t look like you because everyone is different. Auggie was very brave and never was mean or violent, he was strong and kind instead. He is a ‘wonder’ as well as an inspiration.”

Fellow students Jareese Johnson, Aubrey Rischel, Josie Howes, Gabby Beaver, Azaylia Gunn, Tyler Whitman,  Devin Olmstead, Blaine Gibbs, Liam Edmondson, Tammy Tinch, Lillyan Nielsen,  Cameron Mitchell and all felt that Auggie showed great character in how he acted when the bullies picked on him and agreed that choosing to be kind is always the best route to take in those situations.

For Shaye Johnson and Cambria Koon they learned a very important lesson from the movie that is an issue schools across America are addressing with their students on a daily basis.

“What I learned from ‘Wonder’ is to always choose kind and to never bully, because bullying is wrong,” said Shaye.

“Be kind to everyone young and old, ugly or beautiful and don’t bully,” added Cambria.

Isabella Vasquez picked up on the same important message.

“I learned to always choose kind, to be brave and nice,” she said.

For Breanna Hayes it was a matter of learning four things from the movie.

“I learned to never bully, be strong, don’t give up no matter what goes wrong and you’re beautiful no matter what people say, said Breanna.

Kennedy Elementary School teacher Jaclyn Trahan said the students at that school are even taking a step beyond the movie.

“All of the fifth grade classrooms at Kennedy Elementary were given the book ‘Wonder’ by our Title 1 Intervention Coach, Ruth Simoneau, to read to our students in hopes to promote kindness to others,” said Trahan. “It’s been a great read-aloud for our students with a powerful message.”

So powerful, that Sharon Monnot of Sports Ink is donating T-shirts with the slogan #choosekind on them for all Kennedy Elementary fifth graders for the movie showing.

Trahan said it helps drive home the point of choosing kindness as the best approach.

“It was done with a hope that our students will be more aware of the words and actions they choose on a daily basis,” said Trahan. “We are overwhelmed by the generosity of the Manistee community.”

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Posted by Ken Grabowski

Ken is News Advocate’s education reporter. He coordinates coverage for all Manistee County schools and West Shore Community College. He can be reached by phone at (231) 398-3125 or by email at kgrabowski@pioneergroup.com.

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