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Student Leadership: Iola Students Run Freshman Transition

In an effort to improve freshman transition and overall school culture, Iola High School in rural Kansas opted for a two-pronged approach: model the lessons of School-Connect for junior and senior student leaders and have them turn around and teach these same lessons to groups of ninth-grade students. The school community has been pleased with the results: a 62% reduction in fights, a 45% reduction in suspensions, and a 62% decrease in students on academic probation-all in the first year of implementation.

In the second year, the trend held. As Jodi Grover, the school counselor who oversees the program, reports:

"There used to be a lot of tension between upperclassmen and freshmen. The fighting and menial conflicts have stopped. The student body relates to each other in a more respectful manner. They just get along. They respect each other; the older students look out for the younger ones."

The coming year's program begins to take shape each spring when Iola teachers nominate approximately 20 upperclassmen to form a LINK Crew, a structure for high school leadership development created by The Boomerang Project. Over the summer, crew members attend a two-day, 12-hour training during which Grover models School-Connect lesson delivery. Then crew members practice the skills and apply think-pair-share to answer any remaining questions. This model/practice/discuss process continues throughout the year as crew members move through the School-Connect modules.

At freshman orientation, six groups of 20 ninth-grade students are matched with two to three crew members. They then begin the process of getting to know each other and the school layout and policies. "Then the first two weeks of school we hit them hard," says Grover. During the daily 45-minute study period, students get a large dose of School-Connect along with additional community-building games and activities. The Module 3 lessons on goal setting and budgeting time are moved up in the sequence in order to help freshman start off on the right foot academically.

Throughout the year, crew members meet twice a month with their freshman groups for lessons and, on an on-call basis, provide guidance in problem solving and advice on overcoming academic obstacles. "Upper classmen get just as much out of it as the freshmen," Grover observes. "They have those 'ah-ha' moments."

Grover feels that the benefits extend throughout the school: "The school environment is completely changed. The parents and School Board notice it. Now sophomores who received the lessons as freshman are asking to be on Link Crew." An exciting and welcome challenge has since arisen: How to accommodate all the students who want to be Link Crew members after freshman year.

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What TEACHERS are saying...

"The school environment is completely changed. The parents and School Board notice it."

- Jodi Grover, school counselor, Iola High School, KS


School-Connect freshman seminar class

Iola High School student leaders guiding a School-Connect class


School-Connect freshman seminar class

Student leaders teach School-Connect at Iola High School


School-Connect freshman seminar class

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