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A Culture of Caring

Every Friday at Laura Hose Elementary School, 24 students in kindergarten and first grade who have been chosen anonymously by teachers and staff take home a backpack filled with nutritious, kid-friendly food for the weekend. These Food Finders Backpacks are just one example of a “culture of caring” that exists at Hose Elementary and throughout every school in the Crawfordsville Community School Corporation.

At the beginning of each school year, the Hose Elementary administration contacts several families who have been selected as possible participants in the Food Finders Backpack program. If the parents approve, their child is ensured proper nutrition during weekends and vacation periods while helping the family to reduce their total food bill. This has the added effect of giving families more financial resources to cover other necessary expenses.

Hose School utilizes several other programs and activities to provide a culture of caring in its Kindergarten-Grade 1 building. The Kelso Program teaches the young learners the difference between big and small problems, giving them the skills to take care of the small problems themselves, but identifying the problems where they might need help and support. If a student has a big problem, he or she is taught to immediately tell an adult they trust. But if the problem is small, the kids are taught to utilize two of Kelso’s choices, such as talking it out, ignoring it, walking away or waiting awhile to cool off. This program is part of a more extensive anti-bullying campaign being used in the school.

Another very successful Hose School activity is the Character Chain. When someone notices a child displaying especially good character, a teacher or staff member will write the child’s name on a chain link. The young student will then be praised during morning announcements and his or her name added to large chain in the hallway.

Kindergarten and first grade is the ideal place to teach students how to be a good friend to someone. Hose Elementary has that covered as well with its Friendship Circles which teach five and six year old kids the skills necessary to be a good friend.

This culture of caring doesn’t end, however with CCSC’s youngest learners. At Meredith Nicholson Elementary, second and third grade students can earn “pillar cards” when they show one of the six Pillars of Character of the corporation-wide Character Counts program. When a student receives one card for each pillar—Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring and Citizenship—he or she will be “Knighted,” a suitable title since Knights is the Nicholson mascot. The “Knighting” takes place at a school assembly in front of the Nicholson staff, students and parents.

 Office referrals usually mean that a student is in trouble at many schools, but not necessarily at Nicholson. There, referrals are utilized to reinforce positive and caring attitude and behavior of students. With this program, teachers and staff may refer a student to the principal/dean’s office for good behavior. These students are subsequently recognized on the morning announcements and are invited to the office to receive their award.

At Nicholson, all students are part of a “looping” classroom where they have the same teacher for second and third grades, or a non-traditional looping program whereby they remain together for two years but with a different teacher each year. This allows teachers to build a strong community of caring in their classrooms. And students get to know each other very well and become a cohesive family, looking out for one another and celebrating each other’s successes.

Recently, schools in Montgomery County came together to initiate a Positive Behavior Intervention System to address students’ academic, social and emotional needs. As a part of this county-wide program, Nicholson administration and teachers have created a list of “guiding beliefs” as a foundation of it PBIS plan. These are designed to create common expectations for students in places such as the hallways, classrooms and bathrooms. Nicholson’s guiding beliefs include starting the day with positive interactions and building upon them throughout the day, consistent communication about expectations, equal emphasis on character and education to develop the whole child, and developing trust between staff and students as an important way to develop a sense community.

An after-school visitor to Mollie B. Hoover Elementary might find a group of fourth and fifth graders designing thank-you cards for special people and get-well cards for kids in the hospital. Or they might be putting together care packages for policemen, firemen and service men and women. These students belong to the Caring Hearts Club, one of several after-school programs at Hoover. The club is designed to build character by encouraging its members to do nice things for others. This also includes caring for animals by volunteering to walk dogs at the Montgomery County Animal Shelter. The possibilities to show a kind and caring attitude toward others as a member of Hoover’s Caring Hearts Club is almost endless.

Administration, staff and  students in grades 6-8 at the sparkling new Crawfordsville Middle School continue CCSC’s commitment to a culture of caring. A new 20-minute Advisory Period has been added to the schedule to start the day. Students have the same teacher for all three years which allows each advisory instructor to “check-in” more closely on his or her students, helping them to set goals and monitoring their grades and behavior. Twice a week, two intentional lessons are taught to all of the students. One lesson takes place on “Athenian Care” Day and usually revolves around a social/emotional topic. For example, lessons are being taught on cyber safety and cyber citizenship. The second lesson is taught on “Athenian Achieve” Day whereby there is more focus on academic skills. The main impetus for the Advisory period is to provide every student with that one caring adult that he or she will see every day throughout their three years at CMS in a non-academic setting and to provide these sixth, seventh and eighth graders the opportunity to be more successful.

As part of the aforementioned county-wide Positive Behavior Intervention and Support (PBIS) program, CMS administration and staff have identified  four core values for students to follow: Be Responsible, Be Respectful, Be Kind and Be safe. Students are being taught how to adhere to these behavioral guidelines and are subsequently recognized when they go above and beyond these expectations.

At Crawfordsville High School, the Link Crew is a transition program that welcomes freshmen and allows them some comfort throughout the first year of their high school experience. The program is built on the belief that students can help younger students to succeed. About 50 juniors and seniors are given the opportunity to become Link Crew Leaders who mentor and guide the freshmen, helping them to succeed as they transition from middle school to high school.

In 2008, Justin Wright was the recipient of the Phillips Mental Attitude Award following CHS’s Class 3A, baseball state championship at Victory Field. Another Athenian, Adam Boehm, captured the same award after his team’s state title run three years later. The award is based on character, attitude and leadership. And Mark Melton, the Assistant Principal at CHS, recently won the Character Counts Educator Award. Several students and other educators and staff in the Crawfordsville School Corporation have won similar Character Counts Awards over the past several years.

But, perhaps the most touching display of caring at CHS took place in the fall of 2015 when the student body elected a student with disabilities as Homecoming Queen. Reporters from Indianapolis TV stations were there to cover the event as the Queen, smiling from ear to ear and cheered on loudly by CHS students, was escorted by the Captain of the football team to receive her crown.

That memorable Athenian Homecoming exemplifies the extra efforts of administrators, teachers, staff and students in going above and beyond to create a “Culture of Caring” throughout Crawfordsville Schools.