IMPACT students stretched their creativity through daily journaling, self-reflection exercises and decorating theatrical masks.
Last spring, 15 VPS middle and high school students gained a new perspective on school and a renewed commitment to their learning. As part of their involvement in a program called IMPACT–an acronym for improvement, mind, pride, achievement, character and teamwork–students spent three months learning about math, reading, art and social and emotional learning.
IMPACT participants read the novel Wonder, completed math exercises and then were able to apply math concepts to woodworking on trips to Friends of the Carpenter. They also stretched their creativity through daily journaling, self-reflection exercises and decorating theatrical masks.
“They loved the opportunity to express themselves in something that was academic,” said Student Engagement Coordinator Melissa Alonso-Martinez.
The opportunity to work closely with staff members for a few hours each day was key. Teachers Dallin Scheidel, Chase Lindow, Rainther Sancher, Siniann Kansou and Alonso-Martinez spent time understanding each student’s needs. “They were exactly what the kids needed: They were patient. They were kind. They listened,” said Alonso-Martinez. “And yet they were firm enough that they were able to incorporate literacy and math and other academics.”
By the end of the program’s 14-week run, students displayed a marked increase in self-control and self-confidence. Those outcomes are part of the vision of the program’s creator, Elizabeth Mikaele, a former school counselor and current director of the district’s student welfare and attendance department. “The vision is to support each student in realizing their true potential while providing a safe space for students and families,” said Mikaele. “The program will support students and families through learning experiences that best meet their needs.”
Though the inaugural IMPACT session is over, the mentorships forged in the program will continue through re-engagement meetings, plans and progress monitoring in partnership with students and families. “We’re going to keep those connections, however that need for each student will look,” said Alonso-Martinez. We’re going to serve that and make sure that we help them, really help them, to be successful.”