Programs to Improve Connections With Students Leads to Nomination For State Award

Teacher giving student high five in a classroomWoodlands Middle School and Hidden Oaks Elementary School have both been nominated at the state level for a Family and Community Involvement Award given by the Florida Department of Education. The purpose of the award is to promote and recognize innovative school practices that increase family and community involvement.

Woodlands Middle

The mission of the school’s Mustang Mentor program is to support the academic, social, and behavioral success of students by providing one-on-one positive interaction with a Woodlands Middle staff member to create a caring, family-like environment.

The program operates during normal school hours throughout the school year. Mentors are volunteers, faculty, and staff. Students are recommended for the program, a mentor is strategically matched with a student, or a mentor can choose a student to mentor. Some mentors have multiple mentees and are encouraged to establish confidentiality and trust with their mentee(s).

Most mentoring sessions are at least once per week before or after school. Sessions are 30 – 45 minutes depending on mentor and mentee schedules. Mentees are responsible for following the school’s Code of Conduct which encourages P.R.I.D.E. (Positive attitude, Respect, Integrity, Dedication, and Excellence).

Students in the program have developed positive attitudes towards school, a higher level of self-confidence, and trust in their teachers. They have also demonstrated a greater level of respect for authority and feel a sense of inclusion, instead of being known as the troublemaker or outsider.

Currently, there are approximately 50 mentee participants in the program. Thanks to support from the school’s business partners and volunteers, student mentees and mentors receive tokens of acknowledgement in the form of incentive and achievement rewards donated by business partners. Once per quarter, families of participants are invited to the school to celebrate the success of the students and their mentors.

The Mustang Mentor program has proven to be successful and impactful. Not only have the mentors and mentees been touched by its success, it has also had a trickle-down effect to other students. The attitude on campus is changing, and students now consider their school to be an inviting place with more empathy and less bullying.

Hidden Oaks Elementary

The High Flying Hawk awards program is a celebration of the school’s students. The mission of the program is to create an intimate environment so that everyone at Hidden Oaks feels that they are part of a family. Teachers are given criteria for positive character traits at the beginning of the school year, and each month, all homeroom teachers of students in kindergarten through fifth grade are asked to nominate two students.

One student is nominated because they exhibit a character trait such as responsibility or trustworthiness. A second student is chosen for academic achievement in any subject area, or a character trait. Both student winners from each class have their names displayed outside their classrooms for the month. The student that was selected in the positive trait category is then submitted for the coveted Student of the Month award.

One unique part of this program is that business partners are given the nomination forms and select one boy and one girl as Students of the Month. This creates a greater bond and connection between local businesses and the school, as they get an opportunity to know students through the nominations.

Winners receive a $25 Barnes & Noble gift card. The two school-wide winners then have their names displayed on the marquee in front of the school and their pictures displayed in the school lobby.

An awards ceremony is held towards the end of each month celebrating these students, and the administration acknowledges winners in front of an audience of their families and friends. Students receive a laminated certificate signed by the principal, a school bumper sticker, a blue ribbon, and coupons for local businesses.

By the end of the school year, each student will have received an award for something positive that they have achieved. Because students are acknowledged for their strengths, this helps build their self-esteem and encourage them to become model citizens who can make a positive impact on society.

The High Flying Hawk program has led to greater interest and attendance at other school events. As a state Gold Level model school, Hidden Oaks is always looking for new ways to build their positive school culture. The High Flying Hawk program is one important way the school has accomplished that goal and helped students gain a sense of personal pride.