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District Addresses Struggles of School-Age Youth

rachaels challenge_coverHOPKINS COUNTY, KY (11/12/12) — The Hopkins County School District is attempting to instill a host of fundamental values in its students. SurfKY News had the opportunity to sit in on some interviews and presentations and to hear the codes of ethics that are being afforded to today’s youth in hopes of creating substantial leaders of tomorrow.

In recent weeks past, the school system and community as a whole have endured some adversity, with threats perpetuated through social media as well as a student tragedy. This kind of struggle has always and will probably always be something that the school system faces and has to overcome, the same as society outside the school system.

It is a system—an organization of people with common interests following common instruction. From parents, chore allowance money, teachers, rules, detention, and being grounded for misbehaving, we’re thrown into bosses, paychecks, electric bills, government, laws, and, for some, court convictions for not conforming. The issue therein is that key word, “people”—complex, different, independent, self preserving, fearful, emotional, ambitious, repressed, depressed, opinionated, and often uncommon, the list goes on. People are a force driving the world we know today. People are kind of a big deal; not the biggest but still significant.

The fact is that the school system consists of less-than-fully-developed people referred to as  “youth,” with a host of pressures and  adolescent angst, and many youth find all those challenges completely exhausting. They often get discouraged or isolated or angry and don’t quite know how to express themselves or not to express themselves. Perhaps they don’t have clear perspective that is needed in order to develop essential skills for living as adults in society beyond those uncomfortable, youthful years. There’s a lot of skill involved in just being human, and the majority of all the training and skills development happens during those vital years in school. Teachers and instructors have their hands full to say the least. They’re the ones supervising, managing, directing, counseling, parenting, and consoling all that growth and evolution.

Occasionally, wires get crossed and people react to adversity in a detrimental way. They become “diseased.”  And occasionally, that reaction or disease destroys them and/or other people in their path. No one can really predict who, when, how, where, and why it happens, but we know it happens. We’ve experienced it. We’ve lived it. We’ve felt it or seen it or heard about it.

SurfKY News sat down with school administrators last week at Hopkins County Central High in an interview about what resources and strategies they’re using to aid students in their evolution. The next day, we attended a presentation at South Hopkins Middle School for the Rachel’s Challenge program that the entire Hopkins County School District hosted throughout the last weeks of October into the first of November.

In learning more about the schools’ methods of discipline and the values they’re instilling in their students, their method of teaching is based on “Positive Behavioral Intervention,” as stated on their school website. Hopkins County Central High School has a mantra they live by, a “Mission Statement,” if you will: “Dream Big. Work Hard. Achieve Success.” Everywhere you turn in the halls at the school, there is a sign or banner or poster phrasing the positive motto. We were given a tour of the downstairs halls and cafeteria by Assistant Principal Marty Cook and David Kyle, the Student Mentor and Community Liaison at Central.

When you approach the school, the front doors are locked. The only access you have inside is granted by a control person in the office after you’ve beeped in on the electronic box built to the wall outside the front doors. They’re maintaining security from the public and ensuring security within.

rachaels challenge_bodyThe Rachel’s Challenge seminar came about because a program representative gave an inspiring presentation to district staff during Superintendent’s Day held at the Glema Mahr center this year in August just prior to start of school year. It generated enough positive interest that the district decided to host the presentation at all the schools here. Rachel’s Challenge is a program based on the life and dream of Rachel Joy Scott, one of the first victims of the violent attack at Columbine High School at Littleton, CO in 1999, when two Columbine students gunned down and killed 12 students and one teacher and injured 21 others before killing themselves.  Rachel did not survive; however, her family has channeled their grief and carried on her message in hopes of keeping her legacy alive and helping create a chain of “respect, kindness, and compassion” in people. Rachel left behind personal journals she had written full of all her hopes and dreams of living in a world that’s “better.” It wasn’t just a fantasy of a utopian society that Rachel had; she believed if one person carried the message of kindness, it was sure to spread to others.

Cook discussed in the interview how respectful the students were during the presentation held in the gymnasium at Central High during a school day afternoon. There were also presentations held in the evenings after school hours for parents and the rest of the community to attend. He stated, “We’re very proud of our students here at Hopkins County Central High. A pin drop could be heard during that presentation. They were so quiet and attentive.”

Later in the afternoon, about 100 volunteer student leaders along with some faculty and staff  gathered for a ”Friends of Rachel” training session where students shared about the presentation and were given specific instructions on how to sustain the “kindness momentum” in the school in hopes of transforming the climate in the entire school. They focus on things like keeping positive influences around them and being positive influences themselves, speaking with kindness, encouraging others, looking for the best in others, and dreaming big. It’s about being less self-serving and, instead, being of service to others.

Cook also said, “It’s less random acts of kindness as it is targeted, purposeful acts, which is what Rachel Scott was noted for … They’ve started things like, ‘Meet  n’ Greet Monday,’  ‘High Five Friday,’ and ‘Thumbs Up Thursday.’ Things that have an immediate impact,”

Many students pledged to participate in Rachel’s Challenge and signed a banner specifically to commit themselves to the movement. There has been overwhelming student participation in the act, which seems to be no surprise to Mr. Cook.

Cook informed us, when asked what other measures the school takes when there’s a problem or when approached with concerns of bullying or harassment, “There are several avenues for students to take. They’re encouraged to talk to students, mentors, teachers or counselors, and the concerns are immediately addressed when brought to staff’s attention. If the problem continues, further standard steps are taken to resolve the behavior … Everything we do here is driven toward those three phrases. ‘Dream Big. Work Hard. Achieve Success’ … That’s what we’re focused toward here at Hopkins County Central High School.”

Many students in other schools in the district also took the “Rachel’s Challenge” pledge, as the entire school district held the presentations in their schools as well. We attended the program at South Hopkins Middle School on Thursday, November 1st and were able to get the full grasp on the inspiring life and legacy of Rachel Joy Scott. It’s not just up to the instructors, school officials, and youth to “make the world a better place.”

We have some responsibility as people as well. We’re all role models, whether we want to be or not. We just have to consider what role we’re taking on any given day and remember that a youth is usually watching, waiting to fill our shoes.

It takes a village to raise a child.

Jessica Frodge
SurfKY News

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