Pinecrest Seeking Help from Businesses to Keep Kids in School
Administrators at Pinecrest High School are hoping area businesses will partner with them to help keep kids in school through a new, yearlong initiative.
The initiative, known as Patriot Promise, begins Aug. 30 and uses various incentives to keep students enrolled and on the path to graduation.
“We really want the students to understand the connection between them and the community, (and) the importance of working hard so that they can be successful, contributing community members now and as adults,” said Charlene Vermeulen, a principal fellow/assistant principal intern at the high school. “We want the community to understand that our students need their support and encouragement to grow into community leaders.”
The school will gather its freshmen in the auditorium at the start of the school year for a meeting where they will be challenged to make the Patriot Promise to “stay in school, give their best, ask for help when needed, and graduate in 2016.”
Students taking the pledge will be invited to sign a banner reading “Patriot Promise 2016.”
“Each business supporting the initiative will also be asked to sign the banner as a symbol of the business’ support and as a commitment to encourage the students to graduate,” Vermeulen said.
Every freshman signing the banner will be given a T-shirt, printed with a large “P” for Pinecrest, along with the words “Patriot Promise.” Logos of supporting businesses will be on the back of each shirt.
“Although last year more of our seniors graduated than ever, we want all of our students to be knowledgeable, community-connected graduates of Pinecrest High School,” she said. “That is where the Patriot Promise comes in.”
Pinecrest Principal Joel County said that the goal of the program is to have all students graduate.
“The graduation rate was low when I came on board, and we’re now in the 84 to 85 percent range. I’m pleased with the progress, but will not be happy until every student receives his diploma,” County said.
Getting the community involved, County added, is a major part of increasing graduation rates.
“Research says that many of these kids who don’t graduate have a harder time getting jobs, and as a result they are not contributing to the community,” County said. “With Patriot Promise, we are being very public, very ‘in your face’ about changing this process. We have to let the kids know we care. Failure is not an option.”
Current sponsors for the Patriot Promise program include BB&T, Di’lishi, First Bank, Jim Leach State Farm Insurance, FastMED, Nutri-Shop, Par 5 Development, Rhetson Companies, Saunders Orthodontics, Steve Jones Honda and Nationwide Insurance.
NutriShop manager Amy Bullman said she likes the idea of supporting academics.
“As a former teacher, it is important to me that students both graduate and value the educational process,” she said. “I am happy to be involved in the first year of the program, and I hope the Patriot Promise program continues and prospers.”
As an added incentive to students, NutriShop offers a 15 percent discount on their products.
Vermeulen said that participating businesses will receive incentives as well.
“Through their contributions and support, we will provide signing banners, Patriot Promise T-shirts, ‘I Made the Patriot Promise’ stickers, tent cards for the businesses announcing their support of the promise, and signage in the school entry,” Vermeulen said.
“Additionally, each supporting business will be given a desk sign that reads ‘Proud Supporter of the Patriot Promise,’ and the entry hallway to Pinecrest High School will have large signage that explains the promise and thanks the community. Teachers and support staff will also sign a ‘Patriot Promise’ to do everything possible to support and challenge students through to graduation.”
Businesses interested in participating are asked to commit $500 to cover the first year’s expenses. All funds raised are placed in the “Patriot Promise” account and are used for T-shirts, signage and promotional events to encourage Pinecrest students to stay in school.
“More importantly, they are asked to encourage and support our students as they interact with them in their businesses,” Vermeulen said.
County said that while the program is in its infancy, a number of incentives for students are planned through interaction with the participating companies.
“We hope to bring guest speakers in to talk to the students and explain to them what skills would be expected of them in the business world,” County said. “We also hope that internships will be developed for the students, all done with the idea of preventing them from ‘sitting back and checking out’ if we don’t give them a reason to learn.”
Organizers also plan to initiate “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens” as a program, especially with students at risk of dropping out.
“We plan to reach out to struggling students, especially ninth-graders, with the ‘Seven Habits’ curriculum,” Vermeulen said. “There is a direct correlation between students who struggle in the classroom and students who are suspended. We want to be proactive and help those students learn the behavioral and life skills necessary to plan ahead, work well with others, ask for help when needed, set goals and manage conflict.
“With our sponsors’ funding, we hope to put an intervention program in place that will help students experience success in the classroom.”
Vermeulen said a “Patriot Promise Student of the Month” will be chosen as a way to showcase individual accomplishments. The awards will be given based on recommendations from staff and other students.
“We want the students to know in a tangible way that they have support and encouragement,” she said. “If a student has the initiative and drive to graduate, he or she should have the privilege of walking across the graduation stage to get that diploma.”
For more information about becoming a sponsor, contact Vermeulen at (910) 692-7229.
Contact John Lentz at (910) 693-2479 or jlentz@thepilot. com.
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