“I am successful when I’m organized,” said Braxton Brady, a sixth grader at Tillicum Middle School, who participates in the school’s new Students Thrive program.
The program aims to set aside time for students to build organizational skills, check-in on grades, empower students to advocate for themselves and learn to set goals. Students meet twice a week before school to work on these skills for 45 minutes, and breakfast is provided by a PTA grant.
Tillicum counselors Mary Pat Ankerson and Carol Johnson worked together to create Students Thrive, after brainstorming additional ways to support students. With the school’s relocation to the Ringdall campus while Tillicum is rebuilt, the start time was shifted later to accommodate a longer commute to school. Ankerson and Johnson saw the later start time as an opportunity to provide the morning support program.
Any student who needs extra support with organization, including students with 504 plans that specify an organization accommodation, are invited to participate. Teachers also are encouraged to recommend students who may benefit from the program.
Lola Rosenwald, a sixth grader said she signed up because it was her first year at Tillicum and she wanted to be sure she had a good start to the year.
Students enrolled in the program encourage one another, said Johnson. They learn from each other, and know that they are one of many learning these skills.
“My favorite part of the program is the people in there are really nice and they are really supportive,” said eighth grader Tamera Lwakatare. “They kind of give you ideas instead of being called out on an idea and you don’t know what to say, they help you out.”
Students Thrive supports students academically with grade checks, as well as asking students if they are doing their best and have no missing work. Students check-in with the counselors and then are held accountable to explain why an assignment is missing, what they are doing with the assignment and when it will be complete.
“That part is very empowering for kids to be able to say I know what I need to do and I know when I’m going to take it,” said Johnson.
Students are encouraged to create organizational habits, but have freedom to decide what organization methods work for them.
Rosenwald has created her own system for remembering her homework.
“I have these rubber bands that my dad got for me. There are five rubber bands that are different colors and you put one on every time you have homework in a class,” she said. “I know that for PE and orchestra I don’t usually have any homework for those, so those are rubber bands I can use for other classes.”
Students recognize how the program is helping them achieve success.
“I am able to get to class on time because I’m super organized,” said Brady. “I’m not missing as many assignments as I was, and I’m getting a lot better grades.”
The program builds advocacy skills in students, and empowers them to ask questions if they don’t understand.
Rosenwald says Students Thrive has taught her to advocate for herself and said, “I raise my hand after a teacher tells instructions and I don’t understand because I know it’s right to do. I ask to get more detail.”
Parents, too, are excited about the program. Johnson said she receives emails from parents who are overwhelmingly really excited about it.
Lwakatare recommends other students sign up for the program.
“When it comes to school you’re really stressed out and you want to do as best as you can, so this class helps you deal with it,” said Lwakatare.
The program is evolving and developing based on the students and their individual needs.
“This is really designed for students to learn the skills and then exit. Students can exit this program after three weeks of having no missing homework, great grades and organization,” said Ankerson. “When students, parents and school work together, students succeed, and this program provides another avenue for students to thrive.”