STRIVE: Success through teamwork,The 60 students in Hudson High School’s STRIVE program are “at-risk” for a whole variety of reasons. But whatever the reason they are part of STRIVE, the program makes things a lot less risky just for being there.
By: Meg Heaton, Hudson Star-Observer
The 60 students in Hudson High School’s STRIVE program are “at-risk” for a whole variety of reasons. Some are academic. Some have poor school attendance or problems at home. Some may be dealing with issues like chemical dependency or other issues. But whatever the reason they are part of STRIVE, the program makes things a lot less risky just for being there.
Unlike many of the alternative education programs in most school districts, STRIVE is not set up as a separate school but is a program within Hudson High School. Students are scheduled one to four periods per day in STRIVE, mostly for core classes like math, science and English. The students attend regular classes the rest of the day. The students also have access to the program during study halls and other periods for academic and personal support.
Most of the students in STRIVE are referred to the program by their middle school teachers as they leave the eighth grade. Priority is given to students who are behind in their credits or who have experienced failure at school in the past. Students and their parents are interviewed by STRIVE staff prior to enrollment to be sure they want to be part of the program and that it is a good fit for them. Students and their parents sign a contract each year pledging to follow the program’s guidelines and expectations including attendance, grades, behavior and participation in community activities.
Since 2004, the staff of STRIVE is led by Cindy Mitchell, a former guidance counselor, who is also a math and English teacher. She and the five other teachers in the program spoke passionately about the program at a recent Daybreak Rotary meeting. Hudson Rotary has been a big supporter of the STRIVE program along with several other community organizations like the Hudson Women’s Club, the YMCA and Education Foundation of Hudson. Their support has been both financial and personal in many cases with members volunteering to work with students in the program.
Mitchell told the Rotarians that the support of their group and others in Hudson has been vital to the success of the program and ultimately to the success of the students who go through it. “We have the numbers to show that the program is a success and that kids who may well have never graduated, have done so and gone onto to do more than they or other people ever expected they would.”
The program has about 15 students in each grade and there is a waiting list to get into STRIVE. Mitchell says she is approached almost daily by students who want to get into the program but the smaller student to teacher ratio is vital to the success of the program.
The class size also accommodates the different learning style of many of the STRIVE students. “We have found that most of them are kinesthetic learners—they have to be able to move around, get up and out of their seats. That’s different from the typical classroom and these kids don’t function well there,” explained Mitchell.
Along with academics, STRIVE includes a service learning component that gives students a chance to get outside the classroom and get experience in the community they live in.
Mitchell said data show sthat STRIVE students have improved their school attendance and grades and decreased discipline problems.
A good fit
Two STRIVE students spoke to that Rotary meeting. Keaton Hartman is a senior and left the program at one time only to recognize that it was where he needed to be in order to accomplish what he wanted.
“I have seen high school from both sides – in the program and out. I tried to mainstream (regular classes) but I know I wouldn’t have completed high school without STRIVE.”
Hartman left the program for a time by “mutual decision” with Mitchell but came back. “I have the style of learning that the program works with. STRIVE gave me a big boost in confidence.”
Mitchell said students like Hartman sometimes need to get a taste of high school without STRIVE and what the challenges are in regular classrooms. Back in the program, Hartman continues to do well. “He is one of our brightest thinkers,” said Mitchell. “One of our wiggliest, but still one of the brightest.”
As a freshman, Courtney Kobb wasn’t sure she wanted to be part of STRIVE. The junior is a cheerleader and this year’s Pepper Fest queen. “At first I kind of thought whoa-I don’t know if I belong here. But I was struggling with bad grades and just couldn’t do it without the kind of help I get from STRIVE. I’m pretty much getting straight A’s now and I’m so glad I’m part of the program. Some kids don’t understand STRIVE but I’m really proud to be a part of it and I like the kids in it with me.”
Hartman and Kobb are examples of just how different the students in STRIVE are from one another but how the program meets their individual needs. STRIVE students include athletes, so-called troublemakers and “popular kids.” Mitchell said that STRIVE students don’t fit a common stereotype of “at-risk kids,” but do share a commitment to improve their school performance and their chances for success in life after high school.
The relationships between students and teachers in the program are critical to its success. Students do better when they have a close connection with their teachers. Mitchell and her colleagues say all high school students could use a little of what they do every day in STRIVE. “Our kids just need it a little more.”
For more information about STRIVE, contact Mitchell at Hudson High School at (715)377-3800.