Kids live in a scary world today, says Scott Segerson, performing arts teacher at Kyrene Del Pueblo Middle School.
And, so he and a school counselor, Julie Jaskolski, developed the “Courage Conference” series for their students to help them build skills in personal confidence.
“Kids have a lot to worry about and not much time or effort is spent helping them deal with these pressures and fears, so Mrs. Jaskolski and I took the initiative to address this need,” said Segerson.
This is the fourth year for Pueblo students to be able to attend the workshops. Students at Pueblo range between the sixth to the eighth grades, and so far about 300 have received the training.
The course was developed as a three-year series, with the initial class in courage for sixth grade.
“We bring in high school kids and some mature, responsible eighth graders to be discussion group leaders and to provide positive influences for the sixth graders,” said Segerson.
“Teachers do not participate in the actual day, which promotes an atmosphere where kids feel free to talk and share.”
Then seventh-grade students participate in an Awareness Day, which is a chance for the kids to look outside themselves and to move beyond personal pre-occupation, says Segerson.
Then eighth graders go to Empower Camp outside of Prescott for three days.
“During this session, kids are challenged to develop effective leadership skills, to promote cultural and social awareness, and to become empowered with strategies to handle stress, conflict, and to make positive decisions for both themselves their community.
They also participate in community-building activities to foster stronger relationships; skills-building activities to enhance self and social awareness; and, finally, large-group presentations to learn through the power of storytelling,” explained Segerson.
“We want every child to be able to act with courage–to stand up for themself, to develop confident body language, and to overcome fears,” said Segerson.
“At the end of the day, they are asked to make a decision to engage in a specific personal act of courage and we encourage them to act with purposeful kindness.”
Several fellow teachers at Pueblo have noticed new positive behaviors from the students.
Alex Ostrow, a sixth-grade teacher said, “The students have so much fun and come back with a renewed confidence in themselves. They are given a card in which they write down an act of courage that they have created for themselves.
It is great to see them cherish these cards – keeping them in their backpacks or putting them on the cover of their notebooks. Some even post them by their beds at home so they see it every night when they go to bed and every morning when they wake up. They seem happier and treat each other with more kindness and respect.”
And, Josh Jacobs, an eighth- grade social studies teacher, who also helps lead whole group activities for the Empower Camp says, “By the time students are in eighth grade, we can see a significant difference in the students who have attended the entire series – Courage Conference, the Awareness Day and the Empower Camp. They tend to be more respectful and carry themselves with more confidence.”