It didn't take long for hundreds of Aspen Crossing Elementary School students to break into a coordinated chorus.
"MARTY! MARTY! MARTY" students from kindergarten through fifth grade chanted as the massive doors of a Frontier Airlines hangar on the fringes of Denver International Airport slowly opened to reveal the newest plane in the company's fleet.
The students were cheering for the animal rendered in a giant scale on the plane's tail. Marty the Marmot is the newest critter to join Frontier's menagerie of spokesanimals, and these visitors from Aspen Crossing knew the mammal well – it is, after all, the same critter that serves as the school's mascot.
That's no coincidence. Frontier's decision to decorate their newest plane with a marmot came after a coordinated and extended letter-writing campaign from Aspen Crossing third- and fourth-graders. For more than a year, the students have been sending letters to the airline, urging them to choose the marmot to grace one of their planes.
According to Aspen Crossing Principal Scott Schleich, the effort was part of a bigger lesson about activism and advocacy. Schleich and his colleagues wanted the students to realize their potential to affect change and make a difference through simple and straightforward steps.
"This is a great day for Aspen Crossing," Schleich said. "The kids have learned that they can make a difference if they put pen to paper and make an effort. That's an important lesson."
The culmination of that lesson was the official unveiling of the new plane on Nov. 29, a celebration that Schleich and the rest of the staff had to keep secret for months. Students didn't know the marmot had been chosen until Frontier CEO Barry Biffle addressed them in the hangar. "You've been asking us to put a new animal on one of our planes," he said, standing beside Frontier staff dressed as Griz the Grizzly Bear and Foxy the Fox. "We read your letters, and Marty the Marmot will be on our new plane."
Students, teachers and staff alike erupted in applause as the hangar doors opened. The entire assembled crowd had the chance to walk through the new airplane and grab a commemorative T-shirt before heading back to the Aspen Crossing from DIA.
Schleich, who seemed relieved after having to keep the secret for so long, said the entire school deserved to be in on the celebration.
"They've learned they can get things done if they work hard," Schleich said. "I'm glad Frontier Airlines helped us make this memory together."
See Frontier Airlines' video of the unveiling