By shining a light on the leadership qualities of at-risk students, this program prepares them for high school success.
The gym at Red Bank Middle School is buzzing. There are beautiful decorations, face painting, arts and crafts, and more. Shalonda is teaching younger students how to hula hoop. Annie gets on the loudspeaker to thank the principal and teachers for their support. Maria is encouraging students to donate more money to help the people of Haiti. Anyone looking around can see that students are running this fund-raising event, which demonstrates what a group of middle school girls can do when they are given a voice and empowered to lead.
At the start of the academic year, these 16 ethnically diverse girls were considered "at-risk," and school staff members were worried about their upcoming transition to high school. Some of the students had experienced behavior difficulties throughout middle school; others were struggling academically or socially. In short, these girls were slowly drowning in a sea of other students. Lessons from research (Brendtro, Brokenleg, & Van Bockern, 2002; Elias, 2010; Klein, 2008) suggested that giving them a negative label and providing remediation would not help them learn to swim on their own. They needed a program that would build their confidence, competence, and character.
Meeting Special Challenges