Photo: Teachers Jolene Flores, Amy Chinn and Lyn Dee Rhodes are three of the HUG mentors at Truman.Spring is here: Daffodils are in bloom, the Mariners are about to take on the Oakland A’s in the first game of the regular season, the Vancouver Farmers Market just started its 24th year, and the occasional blue sky reminds us that summer is only a few months away.

Spring is also the time of year for a fresh start. At Truman Elementary School, the HUG program is helping kids grow into safe, respectful, and responsible students.

HUG stands for Hello, Update, and Goodbye. Every day, the 16 HUG students check in with their individual mentors. Some are classroom teachers; others work in the cafeteria or with Truman’s custodial staff. Every day, they help reinforce two or three goals set by the students’ teachers. The goals could be using kind and respectful words and actions toward others, raising a hand when help is needed, or simply following directions.

Third-grade teacher Amy Chinn describes her role as a HUG mentor this way: “I think I am like the students’ coach. Their school day is like going out in the field, and then they check in with me. I am the cheerleader to keep encouraging students even when they fail,” she says.

Some HUG students occasionally have difficulty controlling anger. After being in the program, one student said,”I have been making my goal and not getting suspended. I now get to do fun things. It has helped me so that I don’t get as angry that often.” Talk about a great new beginning.

The numbers also point to HUG’s success. Last year, 77 percent of the HUG students met their goals 80 to 100 percent of the time. Almost 60 percent of the students improved their behavior over the previous year. The research is unequivocally clear. Student conduct is a leading indicator for student achievement—reducing misconduct results in improved learning.

The HUG program is created and coordinated by Truman counselor Christine Hill, and is an example of VPS’ commitment to creating safe and supportive learning environments, a Design II strategic plan initiative. Fulfilling that initiative included promoting school-wide values about how we behave and treat one another. Critical to its success is the structure of support to at-risk youth, which HUG does beautifully.

Just as importantly, the HUG program is changing how students feel about themselves. All kids want to feel competent and capable. It’s a basic human need. Another student said, “I feel good about myself and don’t want to behave badly anymore.” In fact, soon that student will be graduating from the program.

At Truman, the entire learning community is transforming lives, one HUG at a time.

Have a terrific spring break.

Take care,

Image: Steve's signature