Before going to BOCES, Marjorie and Katherine had anger issues. Gavin suffered from bouts of anxiety. And Trevor just wouldn’t go to school.
The good news is all four of these students worked hard to alleviate their troubles. Consequently, they have joined a handful of students who have earned an “On Merit” status at school. This distinction, the top tier of the Boys Town Behavior Model, allows them more freedom on school grounds and places each in a position of leadership among their peers.
“Actually, going ‘On Merit’ was a lot of work,” said Marjorie, a student at TSP South from Hadley-Luzerne. “But it changed my life. I still feel angry sometimes, but I know what to do to control my anger. I am showing people that I am a better person.”
Getting there was a process. First, each student, had to be “On Progress,” a Boys Town level that shows they don’t need daily monitoring of the Daily system. If they are Progress students, they are able to follow most or all of the rules independently. When on Progress, they have to be able to save enough Boys Town points (awarded for good behavior) to purchase 200 bonds at 6,000 points per bond. This requires students to demonstrate enough maturity to plan ahead and dole out their points sparingly.
In addition, each student had to outline and execute a community service project.
Marjorie is raising money for the Saratoga County Animal Shelter. Katherine is raising money for Double L Stable Equine Rescue and Sanctuary. Gavin, with help of the Culinary Arts class, made 1,500 box lunches for the Special Olympic participants. Trevor, the youngest “On Merit” student, is in charge of the snack cart at Washington Street TLC.
“I like doing it. I like to see the joy on people’s faces when they see the snack cart,” said Trevor who is the school’s first “On Merit” student. “I’m pretty excited about it. I still get points, and I can go around the school without a teacher. It makes me feel confident.”
It also proves he, and the others, are trustworthy.
Gavin, a student from Schuylerville, said striving to be “On Merit” has helped him reduce his anxiety. As a Graphic and Visual Communications student, he can now navigate the Southern Adirondack Education Center campus on his own. Katherine, a member of TSP North, can too. When she has free time, the Early Childhood Education student is allowed to visit the babies and toddlers in the Head Start program, located in another building on campus.
“I like to play with the kids,” said Katherine who also takes the daily attendance for the program.
“I am so impressed with Katherine,” said Laurie Hall, the social worker at TSP North. “She has come so far. She’s developed some great relationships, which is something she had trouble with before.”
Back at the Myers Education Center, Marjorie has her own desk and can borrow the keys to open outside doors that remain locked to the rest of the student body.
“I’m never going back to the old Marjorie,” she said. “My family says they like the new Marjorie too.”
Teachers and administrators believe that the structure of the Boys Town Model can and does work wonders for some students. It’s important for the structure to remain in place in their school lives in order for the students to continue to thrive.
Seeing the success of the "On Merit" students, and the freedoms they enjoy, inspires other students to follow suit.
“It’s a big deal,” said Washington Street Principal Beth McGraw. “It’s great because Trevor was a student who did not want to go to school. Now, he attends every day. He’s making a lot of friends and other students look up to him.”
Trevor nodded and smiled.
“My family is very proud of me too.”