AUGUSTA — Fifth grader T.J. Jackson certainly felt like an Olympian.
When actual Olympian and Augusta native Julia Clukey placed a medal around his neck for his achievement in writing, Jackson mugged, biting on the silver-toned disc just like he’d seen athletes on TV do.
At Farrington Elementary’s Olympics day on Thursday, Jackson received three of the 337 medals Clukey helped distribute to students who scored high or improved their performance on state tests they took last year.
“I feel really good,” he said. “I worked really hard, and I knew I would do better this year, and I did a lot better.”
Farrington school leaders were hoping to foster that sort of pride and determination when they organized Thursday’s events. The day started with an Olympics-themed field day to celebrate the 9 percent improvement that the school as a whole made on the New England Common Assessment Program reading test.
Then the 208 students in grades three through six who took the tests, plus second graders who will take them next year, gathered in the gymnasium for encouragement from Clukey and the medal ceremony.
Students who scored “proficient with distinction” received gold medals, students who scored “proficient” got silver medals and those who improved over the previous year earned bronze. Students with cognitive disabilities who performed well on the Personalized Alternate Assessment Portfolio also were recognized with medals.
“I hope they take away that maybe not everyone gets a medal, but your hard work and dedication pay off,” Principal Lori Smail said before the ceremony.
Clukey, a luger, missed competing in this year’s Winter Olympics by .013 of a second in a qualifying race. She asked the students to hold up one finger and compared the margin by which she fell short to the very tip of a fingernail.
“Maybe you’re not going to get the medal you want today, and I can relate to that,” she said. “Sometimes that happens … That’s OK. That also helps you make new goals for the next year.”
Dozens of parents lined the walls of the gym to watch the students be called up one at a time to receive their medals from Smail and Clukey. When it was time to head back to classrooms for dismissal, the kindergarteners and first graders — who couldn’t fit into the gym and are still a couple of years away from standardized tests — lined the hallways to cheer them on.