High school wants to offer character-building program

By: Patty McAlpin Lincoln News Messenger Reporter
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Lincoln High School Principal Jay Berns is hoping to bring a character-education program to the high school to help students interact better with one another and realize their dreams. The program is “We are Lincoln-Building GREATNESS within, one student at a time!” Berns’ goal is to bring Life Changers motivational speaker Kevin Bracy and Character Combine Founder Jason Harper to the high school this year. They would help determine areas of need, show how to address issues such as bullying and harassment and teach students how to build character and solve problems. “Is the issue bullying? Are there cyber bullying issues? Are the biggest issues depression? drugs? alcohol?” said Berns, who is starting his second year as Lincoln High’s principal. Students return to school on Aug. 22. We are not alone Every high school campus has its challenges and Lincoln High School is no different, according to Berns. “A former student who played football at Lincoln High School and was well-loved committed suicide,” Berns said. “I don’t ever want a child to take his own life. I want him to know the potential for greatness no matter how hard it gets.” “We want to give the teachers and staff tools to deal with life issues,” Berns said. “If a child wants to drop out, how do we motivate that child?” Berns is also concerned about teen pregnancy. “We did have a number of girls who had babies last year,” Berns said. “Overall, we had 1,500 students and the number of pregnant teens was less than 1 percent.” “Numbers stink,” Berns said. “Whether it was one suicide or one teen pregnancy, that number is a person, a human being, a child.” Building character The character education program that would be presented by Bracy and Harper marries Harper’s message about greatness and giving one’s best effort with Bracy’s formula for building character, “conscience, care, cause, courage, compassion, change.” Their aim is to achieve greatness one student, one person and one program at a time. That’s by coaching students, student leaders and student athletes to model leadership and greatness in the classroom, at home, on and off the playing field so they can positively influence others throughout the Lincoln community. The two men hope to work with Lincoln High students and staff to develop a plan over the course of a year. Bracy and Harper would interview staff, coaches, students, athletes and parents. “We’re trying to find the kids who have influence to create a groundswell,” Berns said. The partners have worked with 80 area schools, most recently Folsom High School, Del Oro High School and Oakridge High School. Getting proactive Western Placer Unified School District Deputy Superintendent of Educational Services Mary Boyle said the district has many intervention resources available to assist students who are struggling, including counseling and mental-health support. “We want to build on these ‘reactionary’ strategies by offering a ‘proactive’ program, believing that by assisting students in developing character, they will increase their resiliency when faced with challenges and will also increase their empathy toward others who may be struggling,” Boyle said, “all of which should result in increased attendance, high grades and fewer discipline issues.” Bayside of Lincoln Pastor Betsy Vanderpool is volunteering to help bring the character-education program to the high school. “Even though my first high-schooler won’t be attending Lincoln High School yet, I believe so much in the importance of this program that I am willing to be part of the team working to bring this to Lincoln,” Vanderpool said. “As a community, we need to reignite hope and a vision for the future in our students.” As a parent and pastor, Vanderpool said she has spoken with numerous middle-school students who feel hopeless about their lives and future to the point they cut themselves and exhibit signs of depressions. “This program will offer alternatives, opportunities and hope to students regardless of their race, socioeconomic status and previous experiences and opportunities,” Vanderpool said. Fitting in Lincoln High parent Dawn Wareham said the community needs to find a way to help students “fit in.” “Watching my children struggle with social issues, social networking issues, mental issues, peer pressure and the challenges of school in general has been heartbreaking,” Wareham said. Helping children fit in is the responsibility of the whole community, including parents, teachers, coaches, mentors and authority figures, according to Wareham. “They say it takes a village to raise a child,” Wareham said. “Lincoln needs to unite together and raise these beautiful children together safely and help them find individual ways to a successful future instead of feeling that they will result in nothing but a low-end blue-collar worker.” Robin Peach has two children attending Lincoln High School this year. “I feel this program is important to help our children unleash and recognize their potential,” Peach said, “to help my children, my children’s friends who I love and care for as my own, for every child in our community to achieve greatness.” Chance Peach, 16, is a Lincoln High School football player. He will play offensive guard for the varsity team this school year. This is his 10th year playing football. Chance says most of those who play football known each other and have grown up together. He said the football players treat one another like family and reach out to include other students when they socialize. But some players from other sports like baseball and basketball tend to keep to themselves. “The biggest thing is to get more kids to socialize on campus,” Chance said. “This character combine would help encourage kids that are not as social to join groups,” Chance said. “It would be a happier place.” Macy is a Lincoln High School cheerleader, with experience cheering for the Jr. Fighting Zebras and competitive all-star cheering. The sophomore said she’d “like to see less drama on the cheer squads this coming year.” The squads practice together so she’s aware of what’s going on in other squads. “Some find the coaches unfair,” Macy said. “Some thought there was favoritism. We don’t have captains but some people act as though they are captains. Other girls would like to do things too. Having a character combine would help students have better interactions with each other.” How to get involved To help cover the cost of the program, which is estimated at $30,000, the school district submitted an application for a $25,000 grant to the Sierra Health Foundation. Berns said there will also be fundraisers. The first one is Family Night Out. The event takes place from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, Aug. 17 at Edwards A. Grey Sports Complex at Lincoln High School. The cost for a booth is $25 for vendors. Mental health organizations and school groups can set up booths for free. For more information, e-mail Robin Peach at peaches. or call 397-8381. Dawn Wareham can by reached by e-mailing dawnwareham@ or call 295-9676.