SSHS launches program to boost new students - Sep. 18, 2013
On the first day of school, students wrote their goals for the year on their hands, just as Grade 9 Noah Linton did. It’s just one of the many facets of the renaissance program at St. Stephen High School.
It’s the beginning of a renaissance at St. Stephen High School.
More accurately, this year marks the beginning of the renaissance program at the school. The program is designed to increase recognition for students for their achievements, which guidance counsellor Jennifer Grant said will hopefully result in more high school students feeling their hard work is being noticed by staff and faculty.
“We always find that it’s the same kids that are going to get recognized over and over again,” said Grant. “They’re kids that do well and are going to be involved in extracurricular activities. Part of the renaissance program is trying to find the hook for those kids that are on the peripheral.”
Events like honours breakfasts, held for students who are currently on the honour roll, have long been a staple at the school. While this and other pre-existing programs are continuing, the renaissance program will provide students with recognition for other accomplishments. There will be a “Hawaii Five-O” celebration for students who have perfect attendance through the first 50 days of school. Students will also be recognized throughout the year for academic improvement, regardless of whether it lands them on the honour roll.
“We all have those kids that are in class, we all know they’re there day after day, they work like dogs, they do their homework, they’re doing several hours of homework every night,” said Grant. “They’re dedicated, but they can never seem to get the leg up, to get that recognition. Now it’s time to recognize those kids and make them see that we see their effort, we value their effort, and appreciate their effort.”
While many of the components of the renaissance program, which is a product of Jostens, will be implemented as the year progresses, there was also plenty of change visible right off the bat. Instead of arriving for the first day of school through the less conspicuous side entrances, students were diverted from their buses to the front doors of the school. Waiting for them was a red carpet and “paparazzi” designed to make the students feel like stars.
There were also banners erected which students and staff were encouraged to sign. Signing the banners signified a commitment to graduate, and were signed by students who were at St. Stephen high School for the very first time. Similarly, staff also had a banner to sign as their commitment to help students realize their goal.
While it may seem elementary that teachers would help their students graduate, the written commitment is still important, said Grant. “It holds everybody accountable. It will be in the gym, it will stay in the gym, it’s just something where even though teachers do it on a daily basis ... it’s an extra push.”
Later in the year, a white graduation gown will arrive at the school, and students who signed the banner will also sign the gown as the three dimensional reminder of the commitment they made. Starting the year with such a commitment creates is a good way to set the tone for the school year, said vice-principal Adam Harris. “We want our students to begin with the end in mind, we want them to set a goal of obtaining their diploma on time so they can begin the next stage of their life. Our students will commit to the … initiative and the staffulty will commit to helping ensure their goal is fulfilled. ”
That term, “staffulty,” is part of the new lingo that’s arrived at the school as part of the program. That subtle shift in language is designed to lessen the distinction between faculty and staff, who ultimately are all working towards the same goal.
That cohesive approach, Grant said, will help to share the credit between every one of the schools employees and create a more celebratory atmosphere. Too often, she said, faculty gets the lion’s share of the credit. “Without them (staff) doing the nitty-gritty our school wouldn’t function. Having the custodian here at six o’clock in the morning until 10 at night, having that flexibility. We wouldn’t know how to do half of our job without Jean here in the office, things like that.”
The program was implemented after Grant, Harris, and vice-principal Krista Amos went to the national conference for the renaissance program this summer. With the program already beginning, Amos said the community is already noticing its impact.
“When you receive emails, Facebook messages and have parents stop you at the grocery store to say that their children have noticed changes in the atmosphere and are excited start the new school year, it means a lot! I am looking forward to continuing to have students commit to graduate on time, improve their daily attendance and have the kids have true Spartan pride.”
Renaissance literally means “rebirth.” It is also used to describe the end of the Middle Ages in Europe, and a new high point for intellectualism on the continent. The “staffulty” at St. Stephen High School are hoping their new intellectual high point is ahead of them as well.