“They change lives and make a real difference in our world,” said Marty Neat, chairman of the Henson Award Selection Committee at the Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore. In their nine year history, Kids of Honor® has helped percent of the students they work with graduate from high school. Last year, they received the Henson Award of Excellence for nonprofits.
More than 1.2 million American youth dropout of school each year…*
Oprah Winfrey has said that the nation is in a “state of emergency” because of the state of
American High Schools.*
Bill Gates has called American High Schools “obsolete.”*
Kids of Honor® is dedicated to improving the lives and futures of young people by empowering them to graduate from high school. Beginning with kids as young as fourth grade, we recognize the importance of basic skills needed to stay in school. Rather than focusing on grades, which can be a de-motivator for underachieving youth, Kids of Honor® seeks improvement in areas such as attendance, preparation, organization, cooperation, and respect. In short, we teach struggling children how to be good, rather than categorizing and dismissing them as problem kids. First, we teach children and adults to communicate and negotiate appropriate behaviors necessary for success. Then, we positively reinforce feelings of personal achievement by celebrating the children’s accomplishments. In turn, this encourages personal success and life-long habits of respect and responsibility. Ultimately, our goal is to guide kids toward high school graduation and an advantageous place in the community.
Kids of Honor® uses a three-tiered approach to help students reach high school graduation. First, Kids of Honor® partners with existing youth-based groups in the community, where we celebrate students when they make positive decisions and exhibit good behavior. Students who are successful within our partner sites join our second tier—the Connection Club. The Connection Club provides students and their families with fun, educational, and community service activities, thus helping students maintain relationships with family members, peers, and the community. When students reach high school, they become part of our third tier—YEAH, or Youth Excelling in Academics with Honor. YEAH students focus on college exploration, job readiness, and personal growth.
We partner with existing youth programs, i.e. our partner sites, to enhance their abilities and effectiveness. The Kids of Honor® model begins with a points-based system that recognizes each child’s progress and improvement. Partner sites keep their own point charts, which differ from site to site depending on which behaviors each site focuses on. Depending on the type of program, partner sites may choose to work on behaviors specific to an after-school program, tutoring sessions, or conduct in the classroom.
One true key in the Kids of Honor® model is identifying and rewarding children for doing positive things, rather than harping on their mistakes. If all of their attempts result in negative remarks, children drown in frustration. However, when kids feel proud of their efforts, they continue to work diligently within the system to retain positive attention. As such, partner sites are responsible for establishing and celebrating small benchmarks of success.
Each month, each partner site selects a winning Kid of Honor—it could be the student who most demonstrated the desired behavior or showed the greatest improvement. To mark the occasion, Kids of Honor® attends the partner site’s monthly celebration and provides the winner with a small reward, i.e. a t-shirt and certificate. At the celebration, Kids of Honor® also recognizes students who become “Plus Club” members. These are students who surpass a pre-determined percentage of available points. Students remain in the Plus Club by earning at least that same amount of points, or more, for three consecutive months or six months throughout the school year.
At the end of the school year, each partner site holds a year-end celebration where all Kids of Honor® students are celebrated and an annual Kid of Honor is selected. The winner may be selected based on total points earned, an essay contest, or some other criteria. The winner’s prize is a $500 graduation incentive. However, in accordance with the Kids of Honor® ultimate vision, the money (and any accumulated interest) is invested and given to the student only upon graduation from high school.
Every month, we acknowledge students for their improvement and growth. After achieving continual success in the plus club or becoming a monthly winner students join in the Kids of Honor® Connection Club.
Our partner sites provide children with caring adult interactions and daily focus on achieving their goals. However, since our ultimate vision is to see these youths graduate, we extend programming from elementary school to high school. Students in our partner site programming who surpass designated levels of success are invited to join the Kids of Honor® Connection Club—either by becoming a monthly or annual Kid of Honor winner or a Plus Club member at a partner site. Plus Club members are students who surpass a pre-determined percentage of available points for three consecutive months or six months throughout the school year. Once children are invited to join the Connection Club, they remain in the club until they graduate from high school.
Approximately seven times a year, the Connection Club hosts events for the entire family based on community service, educational awareness, or social opportunities. This allows students across the region to stay connected to their peers, their family, and their community. Past activities have included groundskeeping for a health facility, painting over graffiti on neighborhood buildings, community food drives, attending minor league baseball games, and visiting the Ocean City Boardwalk.
The Connection Club is a positive experience for both younger and older children. Younger children are exposed to positive child-adult interactions centering on quality projects where they learn firsthand about the power of stewardship in the community. Older children get the chance for more responsibility, peer mentoring, and event planning. They learn basic leadership skills and then put them into action by partnering with and befriending younger students in the club. They even help produce club events, thus completing state community service requirements. By creating programming that grows with the participants, Kids of Honor® is more adept at staying in touch with them and remaining a relevant and positive force through graduation.
Y.E.A.H (Youth Excelling in Academics with Honor):
When students reach high school, they can join our YEAH program, or Youth Excelling in Academics with Honor. The YEAH program is open to all high school students in Wicomico and Somerset counties, not just past Kids of Honor or Connection Club members. During the school year, Wicomico YEAH participants meet every Monday at 3:30 PM at Wicomico Middle School in Salisbury MD. Somerset YEAH participants meet every Tuesday at 3:30 PM at It Takes a Village in Crisfield MD.
YEAH students focus on college exploration, job readiness, and personal growth. They are provided a host of opportunities to learn, help, and grow. Students learn about financial independence, interact with local business owners, meet with college representatives, and shadow university students in actual college classrooms. They earn school service hours by helping with community projects, like planning family field days and educational events for younger Kids of Honor® students. All of these activities make powerful resume material, given Kids of Honor® students an edge in their future endeavors.
Traditionally, officials have approached youth policy by tackling one "youth problem" at a time - youth violence one year, teen pregnancy another, drug abuse the next.1 We have begun to realize that those things are symptoms. Through years of research, many organizations understand positive youth development. Although similar in mission, each brings a slightly different approach to implementing their strategy.
Communities in Schools surrounds students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life.
* Dropouts, Diplomas, and Dollars: U.S. High Schools and the Nation’s Economy Alliance for Excellent Education, August, 2008 by Jason Amos
1 Positive Youth Development: State Strategies By Thaddeus Ferber, Elizabeth Gaines and Christi Goodman, National Conference of State Legislatures Positive Youth Development: State Strategies National Conference of State Legislatures, William T. Pound, Executive Director
2 Turning To One Another by Margaret Wheatley
3 Dr. Peter Benson, to participants at the Search Institute 2008 Healthy Communities l Healthy Youth Conference
Kids of Honor® Programs