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Assets In Action: Caring school environment makes a difference

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By Bernadette Lauritzen

Our Asset of the week is No. 5, Caring School Climate. This is defined as when school provides a caring, encouraging environment.
One of the goals of the Change of Heart training, sponsored by the JJAB is to create a caring school climate.
We started the program about the same time we captured our previous data collection, 2009. We trained 10 students from each of the five elementary schools, and all of their counselors, just prior to the end of the school year.
The next year we trained the entire middle school in one solid week, followed by each sixth grade class, in each elementary school.
Our thought was that for the following years, to train each sixth grade elementary and those students new to the district at the middle school. It is a great service that Assets In Action and the Juvenile Justice Advisory Board offers to Los Alamos Public Schools, at no cost to them.
By the end of this month, we will have fulfilled that goal again for this school year. It gives youth a chance to look at themselves, their actions, the actions of others and what they can do in the future.
The training also emphasizes the need to surround yourself with good people that want you to be successful. It tells them to make their own decisions when they know others are wrong and that every day they get a new slate to start again.
We try and teach them that there are many adults in the building that care about them and that they can talk to anytime.
One of my favorite exercises is when they work in small groups to write a four-sentence story about a black and white picture of a student. What they learn is not to judge a book by the cover and how you never know what someone has to deal with in their life.
I don’t try and do a direct link from my work to the community, because we do so many community programs and so many more folks are familiar with the Assets, that it is a community effort.
The data in this category shows that things are improving at a great rate.
Our 2009 data rated this category at 33 percent, for students in sixth through 12th grade. Our 2013 data collection shows the same age population now rates this category at 41 percent.
I also think it has a lot to do with schools celebrating their success on many levels and often, so the students can see that their efforts pay off.
Many of the schools have looked long and hard about giving their students the tools they need and their parents need to be successful. Many offer before school opportunities to increase their reading skills by opening libraries early.
Some offer before school running clubs for students to get a leg up on their health and for others to get the sillies out before the day begins.
If you got a new idea, share it, you never know where it might lead and keep up the good work LA.

Assets In Action is sponsored by the JJAB and the LACDC.