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GHS Football Team Receives Academic Excellence Award From National Football Foundation

Tigers one of only two Iowa schools to be recognized

On the field, inside the classroom, and out in the community — members of the Gilbert football team excel in all three environments.

Don’t just take our word for it. Listen to the National Football Foundation (NFF).

On Wednesday, the Gilbert Community School District was pleased to learn the Tigers’ football program received a 2023-24 NFF National High School Academic Excellence Award. Presented by the Rose Bowl Legacy Foundation, this award goes to the top academic football teams from each state, and service work in the community is also factored into the winners. The initiative is designed to inspire and foster a culture of academic excellence in high school football teams throughout the nation.

Gilbert and Van Meter were the only two Iowa schools to receive the award. Only 56 schools nationally were honored.

“The neatest thing about this is being able to celebrate all of the things that people don’t always think about,” Gilbert head football coach Graham Lundt said. “It’s cool this foundation is doing this because they get to recognize a program. Winning and losing is important, but it’s not the only important thing.”

Eligibility requirements for the award include:

  • A minimum cumulative team GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale.
  • A superior academic application and performance.
  • A successful football season.

The Gilbert football team compiled a 3.61 GPA with four of its players owning a 4.0 GPA. In all, 27 of the 31 juniors and seniors were named academic all-district this past fall, and eight players were honored with academic all-state status.

In the community, members of the football team routinely offer help to families who are moving, and they are the featured attractions at the Kids Camp that occurs over the summer, complete with a homemade Slip N Slide.

Gilbert put together a 6-3 season on the field in 2023. The Tigers won their opening six games of the season and were ranked as high as No. 2 (Class 4A) by some publications.

Lundt pointed out that many of the things celebrated in this award – the academic success, the leadership success, the community outreach success – took place prior to the start of the 2023 season. At that time, Gilbert had won only one of its previous 19 games.

“We want to go undefeated in everything we can control, and this is something we can control,” Lundt said, referring to the classroom and off-the-field success. “Every single person in the program can be a part of it because every single person can contribute to academic success, to leadership success, to growing as an individual.”

Each state high school coaches association selects its respective state’s winners from the pool of nominees. A selection committee, assembled and led by the NFF, will be responsible for choosing the one school as the recipient of the Hatchell Cup as the best team in the nation.

The winner of the Hatchell Cup will be announced on Tuesday, Feb. 6, and it comes with a $10,000 donation.

This NFF program began in February of 2021. The awards represent the first nationwide recognition honoring individual high school football teams for excellence in the classroom and community.

The Grundy Center High School football team was the national award winner in 2022-23.

Chef Clarke The New Food Service Director For Gilbert CSD

The Gilbert Community School District is thrilled to welcome Tace Clarke to our team as the new Director of Food Service.

Chef Clarke got right to work at each of the four buildings last week. She replaces Deb Purcell, who served in the role for more than five years before her retirement last week.

Previously the Food Service Director at Baxter Schools, Chef Clarke comes to Gilbert with more than 20 years of experience in the restaurant and food service industry. She says she has a friend to thank for pointing her in Gilbert’s direction.

“I actually had a close friend who worked here as a long-term (substitute teacher) and I asked her what she thought of Gilbert. She said the processes and routines and families were incredible, and she really sold it for me,” Chef Clarke said. “The opportunity to have multiple buildings and be able to grow a program in a growing community at a school like Gilbert that has a reputation for excellence, it’s just fantastic.”

Chef Clarke grew up just outside of Baltimore, Maryland, and began her culinary career in Little Italy, Baltimore where she learned under well-respected chefs on the east coast.

She moved to Iowa a decade ago to serve as the Regional Operational Lead at Life Time Athletic in Des Moines. She eventually took over as the Associate Director of Food Service at Grinnell College and then moved into a leading role at Baxter Schools, where she was in her third year before accepting the position at Gilbert.

Chef Clarke says the move to Iowa has been all she and her family had hoped for when they made the decision.

“It’s been amazing,” she said. “My parents moved out from Maryland about two yeas ago … we love it here.”

Chef Clarke is excited to get to work with her new Gilbert CSD staff and put her plan in place.

“I love being able to teach the cooking to my team,” she said. “I love homemade cooking from scratch and I’d like to move in that direction instead of processed ingredients. That’s not a tomorrow thing, but the goal is to start that one day a week and go from there.”

Dr. Christine Trujillo, the Superintendent of Gilbert Schools, sees the passion and enthusiasm Chef Clarke brings to her department, and is excited to see her become a leader in the district.

“Chef Clarke brings a new and exciting energy to the nutrition department,” Dr. Trujillo said. “I look forward to watching her creativity come alive in the kitchen for our children.”

Chef Clarke and her husband, William, have two young children: Liam, 8, and McKenna, 5. William is also a former chef and currently serves as an EMT and firefighter. Liam, a second grader, and McKenna, who is in kindergarten, attend school in the West Marshall Community School District.

An avid equestrian, Chef Clarke and her family live on a farm where they all spend quality time riding.

“Before getting into the culinary world, I actually rode for many years,” Chef Clarke said. “Now I just do it for fun. We all ride and just have fun with it.”

Dr. Trujillo also wanted to thank Ms. Purcell for her commitment to Gilbert CSD during her years as the Food Service Director.

“I’m so grateful to Deb for her hard work and dedication in the area of nutrition for Gilbert students,” Dr. Trujillo said. “We wish her nothing but the best in retirement.”

Student Synergy Brings Positive Impact to $1 Challenge

A single dollar doesn’t have the buying power in had 20 or 30 years ago. Can you still buy a pack of gum? Maybe. A candy bar? Not likely.

But what can 25 people do when they each take a dollar and pool their resources? Well, now we’re getting somewhere.

That was what was presented to our students in late December when the $1 Challenge returned to the Gilbert Community School District for the second straight year.

And what is the $1 Challenge? In 2022, a generous district family anonymously donated $1 to each of our students with the idea that the students pay it forward in some way to make a positive impact on others, and it was quite successful.

That’s approximately $1,600 donated. Please, give this family a round of applause.

This year, the challenge was, well, more challenging. With synergy and abundance mentality in mind, the students were asked to work together, to pool their money, and find a cause where their combined dollars could have an even greater impact.

The results, which we’ll get to shortly, speak for themselves.

“The challenge encompasses many of the traits we teach and work on each day with our kids,” Gilbert Intermediate Principal Amy Griffin said. “Think about others before yourself, give time, talent or money to a greater good and work together to be our best.”

Their best, as it turns out, put smiles on many faces.

Through service and teamwork, our students came up with a multitude of ways to make a difference in the area.

Six different classes donated their funds to the Salvation Army. Eight classes offered their funds to various animal shelters for items. Blank Children’s Hospital received donations from seven different classes with some taking the added step of purchasing specific items such as books, games, and even swaddles for infants in the NICU.

Toys for Tots, Food at First, the United Way, Maggie’s Drive, and the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital were a few of the other organizations that received donations from various classes.

Students working together to become leaders for causes greater than themselves. What’s better than that?

“We love how Gilbert is committed to helping students become leaders,” the anonymous donors to the $1 Challenge said. “When we started this (in 2022), we did it because we wanted to provide all kids an opportunity to make a difference for someone else. This year, we love how classes and groups have put their dollars together to make a bigger impact for so many!”

Chelsea Steil’s fourth-grade class at Gilbert Intermediate took it one step further. After selecting Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry to donate to, the students wanted to do more than a monetary donation. They wanted actual items delivered to the organization, and more than they could buy with their combined dollars. So they raided their own pantries at home to add to what Miss Steil was able to buy with their dollars.

“It made me very excited to see (the students) take ownership and come up with the ideas themselves,” Miss Steil said. “This challenge is amazing and it’s such a great opportunity for our kids.”

At Gilbert Middle School, the eighth-grade class used the $1 Challenge to enhance a fundraiser it was already working on. During a collaborative unit with Lauren Stephens and Laura Kautman, the students had already begun work to raise funds that would benefit the Ames Interfaith Refugee Alliance, and their combined dollars pushed the amount it was able to donate to $420. That money went to help 17 refugee children in the area from Ukraine, Venezuela, and Honduras.

“When the opportunity came with the $1 donation, we asked the kids and they overwhelmingly said they would use that money to support the cause we were already learning about,” Mrs. Stephens said. “Anytime you can give kids a position of advocacy, give them an opportunity to engage in their own community in something, that feels much more real. The closer you can root what they are looking at and grappling with in a worldwide lens into a local lens, the more lasting impact I think it has on them.”

Graham Lundt’s leadership and wellness class at the high school put its money together, and then the class members sought out other students to share their dollars in order to purchase Christmas gifts for four local children. The class eventually raised $200 in all.

“Their why was they wanted to give these kids gifts for Christmas,” Mr. Lundt said. “Then they went out as a group and bought gifts, came back and wrapped them, and then the next day they delivered them. The $1 Challenge is a really cool thing and it gives kids an opportunity to learn a valuable lesson.”

Mr. Lundt says the idea actually came out of a failure from a different project, and that too is a valuable lesson his students can learn.

“At any leadership position, the only way you grow is by being unsuccessful,” Mr. Lundt explained. “This group saw a failed situation and found an opportunity, and sometimes the best ideas come from not being what they started as.”

We cannot thank our students and staff members enough for the time, effort, and enthusiasm they put into this project. And to our anonymous donors, your continued dedication to our students, our school, and our community is a shining light on what makes Gilbert CSD such a special place.

One Stop Shop Available To All Gilbert Students, Families, And Staff

Gilbert families, let’s play a game of Did You Know …

Did you know the Gilbert Community School District has its very own One Stop Shop? Located inside Gilbert Intermediate and run by our Student and Family Advocate Mel Woodin, One Stop Shop is available to all Gilbert students, families, and staff members who are looking for clothing and various other items. There is no cost for these items.

What are some of the items in the shop? It’s stuffed full of things like coats, shorts, pants, T-shirts, sweatshirts, shoes, boots, and socks. There are stocking caps and gloves too.

A new addition this year is sports apparel, such as jerseys, uniforms, shoes, and cleats, and there’s even some equipment, such as baseball and softball bats.

In addition to students and families, Mrs. Woodin says coaches are encouraged to contact her if they have athletes who are in need of items. If she has it, she’ll pass the items on to the appropriate school.

“This is open to everybody in every one of our buildings,” Mrs. Woodin said. “If someone is looking for a size and we don’t have it, we have generous donors and we can usually find what students and families need. If there’s a player who doesn’t want to buy new shoes, they can reach out to me, and even if there are families who are having trouble finding the means to register their kids for sports, I can help out with that as well.”

Mrs. Woodin says she’s always willing to take donations of new or gently-used items. She’s more than happy to accept Gilbert gear that isn’t specific to a year. Currently, she’s most in need of pants for younger children, such as sweatpants and leggings. And there’s always a need for adult-sized clothes that would be suitable and fashionable for high school students.

“We’re always looking for nice stuff of high school kids, things they would wear,” she said.

This past August, Mrs. Woodin ran a PE shoes exchange during Back To School Night, and many families took part. Because PE shoes aren’t worn every day, and because many of the kids quickly grow out of the shoes, she simply set up a large section of PE shoes and families could exchange what they had for a different pair.

“It’s less waste,” she said.

Mrs. Woodin says that if you would like to receive items from the One Stop Shop, you can reach out to her directly by email at, or you can reach out to one of our building counselors. All inquiries are strictly confidential.

If you would like to donate items to the One Stop Shop, please email Mrs. Woodin.

Intermediate Winter Service Learning Project To Benefit One Stop Shop

The Gilbert Intermediate Lighthouse Leadership Team is currently overseeing its building’s Winter Service Learning Project, which is focused on winter warmth.

Students are collecting donations of new or gently-used winter clothing — coats, hats, gloves, scarves, snow boots, and snow pants — to donate to One Stop Shop. Once the Gilbert shop has the items it needs, the remainder of the items will be donated to the Clothing Closet at Bethesda Lutheran Church in Ames.

The Gilbert Intermediate drive is currently up and running and it will end on Friday, Dec. 15. If you would like to donate items, please bring them to the Gilbert Intermediate office.

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Gilbert Community School District

Gilbert Community School District

103 Mathews Drive, Gilbert, Iowa 50105  |  (515) 232-3740