2018’s Rhode Islanders of the Year

We honor inspiring people — and one dog! — who moved the state forward in 2018.

Rhode Islanders

Teddy Ruedakurto on the playground at Peace Dale Elementary. Photography by Alex Gagne.

Teddy Ruedakurto

A question, addendums and an outgoing Peace Dale Kindergartner: That’s what confronted Commissioner Ken Wagner at the 2018 Rhode Island State of Education event in March. The then-five year old, Teddy Ruedakurto, was one of eight students selected to have his voice be heard. His question? Why he couldn’t have more time for recess at school.

After his mom, Kari Kurto, read the commissioner’s note she subscribed to, she asked Teddy if there was anything he wanted to mention since Wagner was seeking comments from Rhode Island’s youth.

They quickly submitted his question and were notified that Teddy was chosen. The two got to work; they found reputable articles online supporting why children need more time for play while still learning in a school setting.

“Teddy and I put his speech together,” says Kurto. “Everything he wanted to say was dictated in his own words, I simply typed [it] up for him.”

And what brilliantly spoken words they were.

“Hi I’m Teddy. I have a question and two addendums. Here’s my question,” the kindergartner said. “Kindergarten is so awesome, but I am having trouble sitting still in class because we need more minutes of recess…. It helps so much development for children according to the pediatrics and I could get big muscles and it’s better than getting sent to a chair for not sitting still. I got a lot more recess in my Montessori school and I could use my imagination more. Can we have fifty more minutes of recess, so I could sit still more?”

Though he was nervous because he had never been on a stage before, Teddy was also excited to give his speech. He liked the idea that presenting his question might grant him more recess time.

“I like to play ninja warriors and hunt ghosts and play tag at recess,” he says. “You get to run around and get energy out and sit still better in school. I have a lot of silly energy to get out and I can’t do it in class. I would feel super-duper anxious and too energetic without recess.”

According to Teddy, even squirrels need time to play and practice important life skills, so “why not kids?”

After getting ten people to sign a petition he made at his after-school YMCA program and printing out his notes and distributing them around school, Teddy spread the word by kindly asking people to use the social media hashtag #teddysaysmorerecess — created by one of his friend’s parents — if they believed kids should have more recess time, too.

“Twenty minutes for recess is simply not enough for kids,” says Kurto. And by the sounds of it, many other people agree.

“A lot of my friends and their parents think the same thing about this. They are showing their support by using hashtag Teddy says more recess and you can check it out on social media,” Teddy says.

Teddy’s enthusiasm and drive at such a young age prove that you are never too little to voice your opinion to better your community, even if that means presenting your ideas (and addendums!) to the big bosses themselves. –Samantha Labrecque

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