PUTTING ASSETS INTO ACTION: Lovin’ the Los Alamos Middle School Hawks

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By The Staff

This week, I had the priviledge of working with the Los Alamos Middle School Hawks on A Change of Heart. A Change of Heart is a 40 Developmental Assets based approach to improving school climate.

New Mexico now requires schools to have a district wide plan for bullying prevention and a Change of Heart is a community building effort for the Hawks as they assemble for the new year.

In a perfect world, parents and caregivers would ask their students about the training. Ask them what they learned, what they liked the best or the least about the training. See if they changed their attitude from what they thought previously.

The Flash Judgments and the Heart of the Matter portions seemed to be the top vote getters for the day. The evaluations run the gamut, as we would expect when working with anyone of any age. They range from everything is great and don’t change a thing to I enjoy lunch the best. Naturally, I expect that from an evaluation.

What I didn’t expect was to love them so much. I loved working with every conceivable type of kid from the self proclaimed freaks to the jocks and the brains. I believe the students have learned not to judge a book by the cover, that no matter how perfect someone looks, it doesn’t mean that their life is perfect and that even if you’ve made a bad choice in the past, it is not an indicator of future success.

The administrative team continues to improve the school climate and morale of everyone present. This year, the students are going through a process to come up with their team names.

Students in the teams spend time brainstorming every conceivable name, which is whittled to a handful that can be lived with and students vote anonymously for their favorite.

Those who have the craft gene are invited to design a logo for the team that can be used for future projects. The possibilities are endless, but the morale is running high. We have suggested everything from the Ninja Hawks and the Tony Hawks, to my personal favorite, the Mo Hawks, which if you think of it, could result in a team hairstyle.

Yes, every team thus far has suggested the Nacho Hawks. As in, “What do you call a Hawk that is not yours? Nach ho Hawk.” If you don’t get it, ask a young person.

Mr. Washburn, who is left the middle school this year to steer the ship at Mountain Elementary School – those lucky lions – taught me that a certain type of person loves to work with middle school students. This week, I have learned that I can be that type of person.

One of the greatest things that occurred as a result of this training is that more than 550 thank you cards will have been written during our week-long program.

These cards have been written to the person who helped them along the way during their educational career thus far. Some have words, some have pictures, some are anonymous, but all will make a difference in at least one day or lifetime of a school employee. I hope that if one has made a difference for you, you’ll take the time to let them know.

These kids are not a whole lot different than the elementary level; they really just get bigger and smarter. If you’re wondering, high school students are the same too. They are just a big loveable lot.

So if you have a middle school student, if you know a middle school student, show them some love. Take a minute and say hi, ask them how things are going. If they are seventh- graders this year, get the conversation going by asking questions about the school, their teacher, their friends and what they do all day.

If they’re eighth-graders, don’t let the eye rolling and the head shaking stave you off. Hang in there and stay engaged in their lives for the rest of their lives.

Ask them about their Assets checklist and see if they have the courage to tell you which ones they were lacking. It seems that many didn’t know they can be a powerful voice in their own future. Help them find their passion and what will drive them over the next few years.

Try not to worry if their passion isn’t yours and won’t make them millions of dollars.

You know that if you’re happy at work, even the worst day is better than a job you hate.

Prevention Specialist Georgina Williams and I have one more hawk team left on Monday. Maybe LAMS decided to save the best for last, we’ll have to wait and see.

Oh and one more thing, Good on you, Bob’s Bodacious BBQ for offering school employees a discount. Thanks for building the assets of our educational staff, no matter who they are. “Take A Second, Make A Difference” is our theme and Bob’s crew is adding to the movement. Oh and by the way, your sweet sauce is delicious.

Bernadette Lauritzen is the Assets Coordinator for Los Alamos and welcomes comments and questions at 661-4846. Assets in Action is sponsored by the Juvenile Justice Advisory Board and the Los Alamos Chamber of Commerce.