Being a smaller school district, Borrego Unified School District is known for their attention to their students and community. Part of that attention focuses on the students and how they can be better unified and socially responsible for one another. The district has gone to great efforts to incorporate phenomenal programs for their students that teach students how to be more aware and responsive to those around them. These programs are part of their efforts to build community and social capacity in their students.
One program that has made an impressive impact is Start with Hello Week. The Start with Hello program is a piece of the Sandy Hook promise that teaches youth how to be more inclusive and connected to one another. SWH works to create connectedness and community, by minimizing social isolation, marginalization and rejection BEFORE an individual chooses to hurt them self or others. SWH is an evidence-informed program developed in collaboration with educators and leading violence prevention researchers.
Poster made by BSUSD student during Start with Hello Week
SWH asks students, educators, parents and other community leaders who interact with children to take steps in class, the lunchroom and/or on the bus to be inclusive and connected simply by doing the following:
– SEE someone alone
– REACH OUT and help
– START WITH HELLO
The following is an essay written by Borrego Springs Middle School student, Jimena Ochoa, who is in 8th grade, as apart of an essay contest for Start with Hello week:
“A simple hello can lead to a million things. Have you ever seen someone sitting alone? Someone being left out? So many kids have had this happen to them, where they have felt alone and unnoticed. They battle their way through everyday and they do not deserve it. You matter, maybe not to a thousand people, but you matter to someone, someone is thinking of you. Start With Hello program will expand our group of friends and eliminate the destructive thoughts some people may have. This program has and will help us build a safer community and world. I personally have participated in Start With Hello. I went out during breakfast and looked for someone sitting alone, I noticed a girl sitting by herself, said hello, and started a conversation. She had the biggest smile on her face when I invited her to come and eat outside with my other friends. She clicked right away with the group. The next day she invited some of my other friends to go out and eat pie, she quickly became one of my close friends. She is a beautiful person with such a creative imagination. If it wasn’t for this program I wouldn’t have gotten the courage to say hello.
“People who feel left out usually fall into depression because they feel invisible and think they aren’t loved. At least fifty six people commit suicide everyday, those are fifty six people one of us could have saved if we just could have reached out and noticed them. We need to keep an eye out for signs of self harm or people wanting to hurt someone else. Talk to them or if it is serious report it, you can save their life and maybe someone else’s. Let them know that there is a way out and there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Depression and anger are tied, and these are the main causes for gun violence. When you find yourself alone in a group after your friends suddenly left you, usually you may feel upset and a bit bothered, some people go through that everyday. The anger and sadness builds up. This leads to the violence that could have been stopped and should have never happened. By reaching out to someone the person may feel like maybe they don’t have to hurt anybody and get revenge or maybe they don’t have to feel this way, because they are thought of and someone does care. People battle their own thoughts everyday and constantly feel excluded and just want love and attention from someone, the least we can do is… Start With Hello!”
SWH is evidenced based and informed. In a 2017 randomized control test at Los Angeles Unified School District by the University of Michigan Youth Violence Prevention Center, SWH was shown to significantly improve youth willingness to report warning signs, improve youth relationships with trusted adults, and improved student willingness to report signs of mental distress/threats. Additionally, results achieved directional improvements in attitudes towards school, peer connections and providing a sense of empowerment.
For more information about SWH and the Sandy Hook Promise, visit their website at: https://www.sandyhookpromise.org/about#mission
Borrego Springs School District also participates in Red Ribbon Week every year during the month of October. Everyday during the designated week they have a theme for students to participate in. The last theme was “Life is your journey, travel drug free”. A guest speaker presented to the middle and high schoolers about his personal and family experiences with drugs and alcohol. The middle and high school had a hat day to “put a cap on drugs and alcohol”, a day to wear sunglasses to “shade out drugs”, and a crazy socks day to “put a sock on drugs”.
Visit the redribbon.org website for more information!
Other programs that BSUSD utilizes to help their students is the Connect and Respect and Safe School Ambassadors programs that are run by the non-profit organization, Community Matters. In this program, BSUSD students from fourth grade through Middle School participate in a day long training on how to recognize signs of bullying, how to step up to help victims, and how to deflect bullying behavior. High school students likewise attend a much more in depth and longer assembly discussing the effects of bullying on all parties and how they can stop it.
Poster made by BSUSD student as part of the Connect and Respect program
Being a smaller school district and community, Borrego Springs Staff understands the challenges that dynamic may create in the schools. Community Matters explains why the Connect and Respect program helps smaller communities to improve in overall social capacities and build a better sense of community,
“Often, smaller schools have a student population that has known one another for many years. This familiarity can have consequences regarding interpersonal interactions. For example, once a child is labeled, targeted, or otherwise categorized by his/her peers, this reputation is likely to follow him/her throughout his/her school years. Furthermore, stereotypes and other assumptions about one another can develop at early ages and continue unchecked, gathering momentum and causing divisiveness and conflicts. Many students have learned ways to avoid detection and attention from adults: their mistreatment of one another can be subtle and covert, and therefore, harder for adults to notice. To become aware of the mistreatment and combat entrenched beliefs and labels requires new skills.
Connect and Respect is designed to improve the overall social-emotional climate of a school and reduce youth-on-youth mistreatment. It provides students and faculty with the skills and tools to interact with one another more positively, creating a better social atmosphere, one that leads to new perspectives and more positive relationships, and reduces incidents of bullying and other types of mistreatment. Designed for smaller schools, this one-day training provides students and faculty with the skills and experiences to challenge stereotypes about one another and build more positive relationships, which reduces mistreatment and improves the overall social-emotional climate. Participants learn and refine skills they can use to prevent and stop bullying and mistreatment and improve the quality of the interactions among their peers.”
For more information, visit: http://community-matters.org/programs-and-services/connect-respect
Another phenomenal program BSUSD is implementing is the Safe School Ambassadors program. They have 20 middle school students and 20 high school students who attended 2 days of training to delve deeper into bullying and how to be more effective support groups.
From the Safe School Ambassadors website it explains, “the nation’s most effective bystander education program harnesses the power of students to prevent and stop bullying and violence.” This program provides students with the communication and intervention skills to prevent and stop emotional and physical bullying and improve school climate.
Safe School Ambassadors teaches why their program is effective, saying,
“At its core, the Safe School Ambassadors program is an ‘inside-out’ approach to improving school climate, one that relies on social norms change and the power of students to help stop bullying and violence. Student bystanders see, hear, and know things adults don’t, can intervene in ways adults can’t and are often on the scene of an incident before an adult. They are a critical and under-utilized resource for positively impacting the crisis of bullying in our schools.
The Safe School Ambassadors program engages and mobilizes these bystanders, but not just any bystanders. The program harnesses the power of the socially-influential leaders of a school’s diverse cliques, the ones who shape the social norms that govern other students’ behavior. These ‘alpha’ leaders are carefully identified through student and staff surveys. They are selected based upon specific criteria, such as: strong position and influence in their peer group, good communication skills, and a history of standing up for friends.
The recruited students participate in a two-day interactive training along with several adults who serve as program mentors. The training gives student Ambassadors the motivation and skills to resolve conflicts, defuse incidents, and support isolated and excluded students. After the training, small group meetings of Ambassadors are held every few weeks. These meetings, led by the adult mentors, provide time for strengthening skills, support data collection and analysis of Ambassador interventions, and help sustain student and adult commitment to the program.”
Students who participated in both have said how eye opening the program is and they didn’t realize what some of their classmates were going through, how their behaviors could be seen as bullying, and how as a bystander they do hold power to be positive. Visit http://community-matters.org/programs-and-services/safe-school-ambassadorsto learn more about this program.
About the Borrego Springs Unified School District
We are champions in the classroom and on the field at Borrego Springs Unified! Our schools offer a safe, caring, and small community atmosphere. We have amazing resources and programs to prepare our students for their futures. Our highly qualified staff love educating every child and are excited to make an impact each day your student is here. We have great preschool and transitional kindergarten programs to give children fast starts into their education and then continue with a variety of technology, resources, and career education opportunities to help them in their futures beyond 12th grade. We invite you to join our family and give us the chance to educate yours!
As a small school and caring community, we work together to provide every single student a diverse and academically rich education. We aspire to produce graduates who have their own visions for the future, armed with strong values and the tools for success in college, career, family and community life.
For more information about our district, please visit the Borrego Springs Unified School District website and follow us @borregospringsusd on Instagram, and Borrego Springs Unified School District on Facebook and Youtube.
Company Name: Borrego Springs Unified School District
Contact Person: Media Relations
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Address:2281 Diegueno Rd
City: Borrego Springs
Country: United States