There was not a Friday that went by at my Central Indiana high school that our principal, Dale Graham, didn’t start off the morning announcements with this greeting. It makes me smile to think of his authoritative voice over the square, crackly speakers as we ended the week.
It was a simpler, delightful time. We were glad it was Friday but not because the week had been stressful or wrought with angst. We were just another week closer to adulthood, a fun weekend was ahead, and we’d be back at our desks on Monday morning, ready for another week.
The world — and school — has become a lot more complicated since those days of platform shoes, short skirts and Farrah Fawcett hair. We have become painfully aware of school violence, children at risk, drop-out rates and bullying — at schools across the entire socio-economic spectrum. Research indicates the startling statistic that the decision to drop out of school is made within the first few weeks of entering high school.
So, this morning’s blog is a “shout out” to a group who is proactively addressing these problems in schools from Maine to California this summer. For nearly a decade, the Kick-Off Program has been providing an innovative, high-energy experience that enlists hand-picked high school students to lead the freshmen orientation day and act as mentors to the incoming students. These peer-guided days have proven much more effective than the typical “administrative talking heads” scenarios.
In the interest of transparency, no, this isn’t a client. This freshman transition program is the brainchild of my significant other … who just happens to be somewhat of a “desciple” of the aforementioned Dale Graham. But it’s a story I wanted to share because I think it may renew your faith in the next generation, often perceived as reckless and self-centered. These Kick-Off Mentor’s give up a some personal time during the summer to learn activities that they’ll utilize during their orientation day; they gain a sense of a common goal: “Failure is NOT an option for my freshman!” Activities that follow throughout the year also require some extra time and attention of these mentors. And the ultimate result for the incoming freshmen: Grades improve, attendance improves, disciplinary issues decline and more students become involved in school activities. Graduation rates improve at those schools that participate in the Kick-Off Program … and in a time when schools are financially compensated through funding formulas for the number of students graduating, if these schools retain ONE student, they’ve pretty much paid for the program.
For a glimpse into one of these sessions, click here to view some “out takes” from a training earlier this spring for Indianapolis Public Schools. In its second year with the Kick-Off Program, they are preparing for their freshman orientation day in a couple of weeks and the class of 2014 will be on its way!
And, I’m on my way as well. Lots to do on this Friday — for work and family fun this weekend. So, here’s to TGIF and a great weekend … I’ll be back at the desk on Monday ready for another week. How about you?