POINT PLEASANT — A unique program at Point Pleasant Intermediate School is seeing tremendous results among at-risk boys, according to both educators and parents.
Physical education teachers Andrew Blain and Jed Ott lead the new program, which includes a dozen boys in fifth and sixth grades.
The brainchild of Principal Walter Raynes and Guidance Counselor Melissa Barnette, the program targets boys who are having trouble socially, academically, and/or behaviorally. After choosing the boys through an assessment survey, Raynes said it was discovered a number of those chosen do not have a male role model in the home.
The group meets with Blain and Ott each morning, Monday through Thursday, for a half hour. According to Blain, the boys talk about what is going on in their lives. Blain and Ott help the group finish classroom assignments, study for tests, and talk about why grades are rising or falling.
But more than that, Blain said the students are taught Mr. Ott’s “Big Four,” which consists of sitting up straight, having good eye contact with others, asking questions, and shaking hands. He stated a fifth was later added, to spend at least 15 to 20 minutes of study time at home.
Blain stated the boys are taught how to handle themselves, and respect, responsibility, and accountability are strongly emphasized.
“We show them how to own up to their actions,” said Blain. “We teach them to take responsibility and accept consequences.”
Social situations are also discussed, which helps some of the boys to “come out of their shells.”
Such was the case of Darion Durst, whose mother, Paula Durst, said the program has “helped him tremendously.”
Darion’s father died when the boy was only three months old. Paula admits she is a little “over protective” of her son, who she describes as shy and backward, as well as dealing with social anxiety.
“It (the program) has helped his self-esteem,” she stated. “He is so sure of himself now. He is more outgoing. He is even more involved at church, going to his classes.”
Darion said he likes getting together with the other boys, talking about what they did over the weekends, and hearing positive stories.
Sixth grader Joseph McComas said the classes have helped him overcome his anger issues, and have made him a “better person.”
Raynes added the boys in the program are basically “learning how to become men.” He said when he and Barnette got together to talk about the program, he had just gone over the end-of-the-year discipline records from the previous year and found the majority of the more serious offenses were coming from the fifth and sixth grade boys. That group contained the “repeat offenders,” and they decided to take a proactive approach to boost the boys’ confidence.
Barnette said there is no other school in the county with this type of program that works on character traits. She added the behavioral issues have declined.
Both Blain and Raynes said the initial plan was to keep the boys in the program for a semester, and then cycle in new members as some were ready to leave. However, the boys have formed such a camaraderie and are so disappointed at the idea of leaving, that they have kept the group together throughout the year.
The boys work hard to learn the lessons being taught, and on Thursdays each week they are rewarded with games and other activities. Blain said the reward is not a given, however, and the boys have to earn it.
In the end, Blain said, it is his hope that the group soaks in the information, and down the road become better men because of it.
Mindy Kearns is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing. Reaching her at firstname.lastname@example.org.