The North Thurston Education Foundation’s Hearts Program Helps Connect Students
My position is a sensitive one; young people don’t like talking about the hardships in their life. Having an incentive program such as the North Thurston Education Foundation’s Hearts Program helps develop connections with students.
Over the 2018-19 school year, I used the gift cards from the Hearts Program to encourage attendance in school and as a reward to encourage follow through on assignments and participation in tutoring.
I worked with a student since last October who was chronically absent. She struggled with depression and was not connected to anyone -student or staff – at school. She was a sweet girl that wanted to work hard; she didn’t have anyone holding her accountable or even reaching out to her. With the help of the school counselor, we met with her to offer support, including walking shoes and a coat. After creating a foundation with her and her mother, and providing tools to help her get to school, we made a deal; I told her that we would meet once a week to discuss how things were going at home and in school. If she could make it to school at least three days next week, I told her I’d give her a $5 Dutch Bros. gift card. Every week we met, and she brightened up knowing someone cared about how she was doing, not just that she was going to school. We met weekly to check-in, and those weeks she couldn’t make it; she knew she didn’t earn the Dutch Bros. card yet we met and talked about school and what she needs to accomplish to achieve her goals. We met for the rest of the year, and I saw a definite change in her mood and drive to do what she needed to do.
Having this program to help build relationships with these students is invaluable. Most of the students I work with don’t have parents helping them remember things or to encourage them to power through; they only have themselves. I hope this program continues so we can reach more students that struggle with the little things.
Student Support Navigator
North Thurston Public Schools