New PHS program teaches accountability, goal setting

Published 3:55 pm Monday, January 21, 2019

PELHAM – A program designed to teach students more about responsibility, accountability, resilience and building character is in its pilot year at Pelham High School and, so far, principal Amanda Wilbanks said the program has been well-received by teachers and students.

At the start of the 2018-2019 school year, students began participating in 30-minute monthly advisory periods, taught by a mentor teacher and a lead student, as a part of the Green and Gold program. During the summer, Wilbanks said teachers underwent training and planning to prepare for the program, and 50 seniors were chosen to serve as lead students.

The mentor teachers will be assigned to the same students each year. Wilbanks said this will hopefully help teachers build relationships with the students they mentor.

The curriculum and activities during the monthly sessions were developed by PHS counselors and administrators. The lessons explore different ways that students can be successful, ways they can get involved in school, how to be successful after high school, how to set attainable goals and more.

Another facet of the program includes field trips to area businesses and industries to help students get an idea of what career paths they’d like to take.

“We didn’t randomly pick these topics,” Wilbanks said. “These are character education topics that our students need and have said they want to talk more about. Our goal is to make those 30 minutes powerful by tailoring lessons to our student body.”

At the start of the program, students received a folder and documented their goals and outlined how they plan to achieve their goals.

“They will keep this folder for their entire high school career,” Wilbanks said. “I think it’ll be really interesting for ninth graders to look back and see what goals they set for themselves as freshmen and to see their evolution.”

At the start of the second semester in January, students began looking at nine indicators and evaluated where they stand and how they can improve. The indicators are: attendance, GPA, extracurriculars, clubs, behavior, industry credentials, employment, rigorous coursework and military service.

“This is a good way for students to be informed about where they stand because a lot of the time they don’t know their attendance rate, their GPA and things like that,” Wilbanks said. “We want them to be more accountable for things like that.”

Wilbanks said she didn’t know how successful having lead students for the program would be, but it turned out to be a good move. After receiving communication and fellowship training, the lead students were assigned to a specific classroom and are responsible for taking the lead on teaching lessons.

Wilbanks said the mentor teachers were pleasantly surprised by how the lead students have taken ownership of the lessons. For PHS senior Griffin Knight, being a lead student has allowed him to become friends with people he otherwise probably wouldn’t have met because the school is so big.

“I’ve met new friends through the program, and it’s great to see that as a student I can have a positive impact in someone else’s life and their time in high school,” Knight said.

Knight said he likes that the lessons aren’t so serious that he can’t have fun with the younger students, but he’s still able to get the message across.

“Since I’m closer to their age, we can relate better to each other and the different things that we go through,” he said. “Even though it’s the first year, I feel like we are achieving what we set out to do, like increasing school spirit and involvement and getting kids to start thinking about life after high school.”

At the end of the school year, Wilbanks said the program will be evaluated based on teacher and student feedback and by looking at how many students met the indicators.

“We will be looking to see if we really helped the kids and then we will determine how to proceed from there,” Wilbanks said.