POUGHKEEPSIE – Developing positive character traits is important, especially for high school students who are preparing to enter college, the workforce and adulthood.
Poughkeepsie High School has developed a new positive behavioral interventions and support program that rewards positive behavior and teaches different social-emotional skills to help students succeed.
The Pioneer Power Positive P program was developed by teacher Michelle Parker as part of the revised positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS) program, overseen by Gayle Gerrard Lewin, PBIS coordinator at the high school. Teacher Richard VanScoyck is in charge of marketing and promoting the program.
February was the first month and random acts of kindness were the behavior students were recognized for practicing. Each time a staff member witnessed a student performing a random act of kindness, they could write up a reward ticket and hand it to the student for the student to deposit into a box. At the end of each month, a winner’s name is drawn.
For senior Omari James, being kind and helpful comes naturally.
“I feel like it is how I was raised – to help people. It’s my normal thing and in today’s world it is seen as strange to help someone because people are not together,” he said.
James had three entries in the first contest and his name was pulled as the first winner. One was for giving another student instructions, another for helping a student with their locker and a third for helping collect recycling from around the school, Gerrard Lewin said.
James shared this about one of his tickets.
“I helped explain the classroom rules and helped a student in English when we were doing independent work. Some students were off-task and not focused so I re-explained the lesson to my peers.”
Gerrard Lewin said students voted on the name of the program and that the theme and trait will change from month-to-month.
“We are rolling it out this year with more fidelity and infusing monthly social-emotional lessons beginning in April,” she said.
March’s program, named March Madness, is focused on helping students learn to control their emotions and tickets will be given for helping to de-escalate a situation or if a student is seen calming themselves, Gerrard Lewin said.
“This plays a big part in the state of our school’s mental health,” James said.
As part of the March program, students are encouraged to enter a school song or design a t-shirt contest. The winning song and t-shirt will debut at the March Madness basketball game between PHS staff and the Poughkeepsie Police Benevolent Association March 29 at 6 p.m. at Poughkeepsie High School.
Each month’s winner gets to pick their choice of prizes. James chose a $50 Amazon gift card, which he plans to use to purchase items to help redo his room.
“We want to thank the faculty and staff for participating,” VanScoyk said.