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3rd Graders Learn to Become Leaders in Dayton

Third graders from Lincoln Elementary and their families were treated to supper Tuesday night as they listened to officials present a pilot program that will allow the third graders to become pioneers in their community.
"The program is called Core Life, and it is designed to increase positive character traits in children," explained Dr. Bonnie Hedrick, Prevention Coordinator with Northern Kentucky Prevention Alliance. "The program is based on solid research from the Search Institute in Minneapolis, Minnesota, about what kids need to succeed in life."
The program is simultaneously piloting in Dayton with third graders and Grant County with fourth graders. Hedrick, who helped designed the program, says that they wanted to start with children as young as they thought could understand the concepts so that they could build the foundation and have less resistance and more open minds. Victor Ronis­-Tobin, Doctor of Psychology at Northern Kentucky University, is involved with instituting the program at Dayton.
"I will be measuring the students' improvements to see what takes root and what doesn't," said Ronis­-Tobin. "I will track everything and collect the body of information at the end."
Parents at the pizza supper were curious as to why Dayton was chosen and third graders were the level they were beginning with. Hedrick said they put her in touch with Superintendent Jay Brewer.
"I taught fourth grade for eight years," said Brewer. "We had been at the table with the Prevention Alliance, and I was looking for what else we could do. I liked the dialogue of this program."
Also involved is Jeremy Engal, MD, a physician whose practice is in Dayton, who also liked the program and wanted to do something for his town.
"She had a plan," he said, indicating Hedrick. "I know people. I have seen addiction and I know it is a lot easier to prevent it in the first place. People need to feel valued and to value other people. This is a good community, and if we can make this succeed here we can do it all over the
The teachers and the school counselors and librarians are all on board and ready to start the program on February 9. The purpose of the pizza was to get the parents on the same wavelength. Teachers told the parents that while they had the students roughly eight hours a day, parents had them more time, and to make the program succeed, the parents had to agree to be a part of it, and know what their role was.
"Parents are the key," said Hedrick. "The teachers will weave the thirteen assets into their daily lesson plans for all subjects, but the parents need to ask the children what they did that day and reinforce and underline how little events show how an asset could be applied to their lives."
The thirteen assets the program will concentrate on are Respect, Responsibility, Rules, Goals, Volunteering, Empathy, Gratitude, Tolerance, Healthy Living, Moderation, Honesty, Wisdom and Optimism. Teachers with start with Respect, and send home a handout on Monday of each week along with the newsletter which will have suggested activities and discussion questions for parents. They will also receive a fridge magnet with abbreviated information that they can refer to quickly. If parents sign the newsletter and send it back, signaling that they are taking part in the program and participating in the activities, the student will receive a prize.
"Toward the end of the program, in May, we will have a focus group to ask parents what they liked, what they didn't like, and what we could enhance," said Ronis­-Tobin.
In the end, everyone is hoping that the children are the winners.
"Weeds grow automatically," said Brewer. "Kids are facing those weeds everyday. We can't expect these good traits to happen automatically in kids, we have to specifically teach them. We have to think of them as social skills. Eighty­five percent of success is social skills and fifteen percent is technical skills. Look at these assets­­­we will teach them to look for wisdom. Most people don't know how to do that. The same with optimism. We will pull from their daily activities things that show how to be optimistic. I am excited to be working with Bonnie. I know she is someone who cares about kids."
Story & photos by Patricia A. Scheyer, RCN contributor
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