Kenosha Unified’s Jefferson Elementary rewards students with new wheels

Elementary school celebrating its 100th and final year

KENOSHA, Wis — As Jefferson Elementary students waited patiently for the start of its awards assembly on Friday, fourth-grade student Aleyna Garza and her little brother Elias had no idea their mom would be joining them.

“It was supposed to be a secret,” Cecilia Gonzales said. “They wouldn’t know ahead of time so that they’d would be surprised today.”

It was a day the school looked forward to for months.

Jefferson Elementary is celebrating its 100th and final year. It’s one of five Kenosha Unified School District elementary schools closing due to budget cuts.

When teachers and staff began cleaning out the basement, they made an interesting discovery. It was 30 bicycles obtained by former Jefferson gym teacher Judy Vanderford.

Kenosha native Robby Gauss is the owner of Total Cyclery and a Jefferson Elementary graduate. He spent the past three months restoring the bikes to their original glory.

“They’re all older bikes for sure,” Gauss said. “But minimal work to some of them. And some of them needed a little more than others.”

Six lucky students received the first round of bikes on Friday.

Tyler Cochran of the Kenosha Police Department passed out helmets and bike locks.

“All these people coming together,” said Kristy Makowka, Jefferson Elementary instructional coach. “And what better way to really help our students to understand collaboration than to show them that adults in their community come together for them.”

Vanderford was one of the event’s special guests. She worked 30 years at Jefferson.

“Anything for the kids,” Vanderford said. “I loved the school and loved the kids.”

For being exceptional students, Aleyna and her little brother Elias both got bikes.

“I don’t know how, but we’re really lucky,” Garza said.

It was a proud mom moment for Gonzales.

“It really is special,” Gonzales said. “There is so much love and care they that show every day, that they share every day with our family, to see them translate into school is really special.”

Jefferson Elementary is hosting past students, teachers, and the entire community to join them for a 100-year celebration and farewell party on June 7.