WILMINGTON — Close to 40 at-risk Wilmington Middle School youth may take part in a new program involving three psychologists, the martial arts and a $15,000 grant.
The announcement was made Monday at a WCS school board session. Bill Kennedy, Psy.D., a local psychologist and a third-degree black belt in Chi-Mu Toruku Jitsu, gave a presentation on the planned service.
The program includes partnering with the director of Wright State University’s Resilient Young Ladies and Men program.
WCS Superintendent Ron Sexton said the hope is for the middle-school program to help students who are at risk academically or socially and to serve their parents, too.
“What we want to do is really have a lot of group therapy between parents and kids,” said Sexton.
Martial arts will be used as a vehicle to help yield the results sought in the intervention program, according to Kennedy.
“By using the martial arts, we are able to kind of slide that [a goal of attentiveness] in there in a way that’s palatable to the kids. Everyone wants to learn some kind of martial arts as a teenager or preteen,” said Kennedy, who is head instructor at a martial arts facility in Wilmington.
He said research shows when youth are involved in activity, especially physical activity, that focuses on self-discipline, self-respect and self-esteem, then there are “large improvements” in their psychological and physical health.
Kennedy expects the middle-school program to improve a student’s level of motivation, attention and mood, while decreasing anxiety, depression and anger.
“The bottom line would be improved school performance and interaction with peers,” Kennedy told the school board.
In a pilot program at the middle school last year, Kennedy said data afterward reflected a decrease in inappropriate social behavior by almost a half. Results also included improved moods and a drop in anxiety, he said.
James E. Dobbins, Ph.D., is the director of Resilient Young Ladies and Men, which was established in 2007. On the Wright State University website, the program is described as a collaboration with the Dayton Urban League.
In other business at the board meeting, new teachers for the 2014-15 academic year were introduced.
Board members approved an agreement with the Clinton County Community Action Program Inc. Head Start to provide speech services for preschool students for the school year.
A three-day field trip to Chattanooga, Tenn., next April was approved for the WHS Wind Ensemble to take part in a national invitational. All travel fees and costs, approximately $325, are the responsibility of participating students.
Gary Huffenberger can be reached at 937-382-2574, ext. 2512 or on Twitter @GHuffenberger.