The end of the school year means many things for children. For many, it brings the promise of freedom from schoolwork and allows time for fun in the sun. For some children, it means the end of an era and it is time to say goodbye to friends. For others, it commemorates the academic achievements they have striven toward throughout the year and offers them time to celebrate the fruits of their labor.
For the children in the Sheridan House Residential Program, life is structured a little differently. Recognition is received throughout the year for achievements rather than just at the end. For example, children who receive at least a 2.0 grade point average on their report cards are honored with a special dinner. Those who receive high scores on special projects in school are also celebrated. Children who behave well in school, in the house, and at home on the weekends are all recognized and rewarded for making good choices.
Rachel understands this very well. At the beginning of the school year, she, like many of the other girls, tested the rules and quickly learned that she could not get away with much. It took quite awhile before she began making changes. She received recognition and awards for the positive choices she made, but she also received consequences for the negative ones. Unfortunately, the negative choices Rachel made outweighed the positive choices. In fact, at one point, it looked as though she wanted to give up completely.
Fortunately, Rachel opted to be resilient which makes the end of this school year very special for her. Rachel is now preparing to graduate from the girls’ residential program and is enjoying the privileges that are reserved for graduates. At the graduate level, she has earned her own specially-decorated bedroom. In this room, she is allowed to listen to music and watch movies during her free time. While the other girls have a scheduled time to complete their homework, Rachel is able to select different times throughout the day to complete her work. She is also rewarded with special one-on-one time with her house mom or her assigned behavioral specialist.
While the other girls are working diligently to bring their grades up before the school year ends, Rachel is enjoying the rewards of her consistent hard work and wise choices. When the third quarter grades came home recently, Rachel received straight “A’s!” To celebrate, Rachel went with her behavioral specialist on a mini shopping spree.
Because of her hard work, tenacity, and wise choices, Rachel has developed into a leader in the girls’ home. As new girls begin the program, Rachel naturally takes on the role of a mentor/older sister to them. She is a wonderful example of how to succeed in the program. The other girls admire her and witness the extra privileges she enjoys because of the positive choices she makes. The example Rachel has set motivates the other girls who are still testing the rules.
In each of the homes, we strive to help the children finish the school year well both academically and behaviorally. The best way for them to achieve their goals is to work on it every day; that is why we consistently reward them for positive choices and attitudes. Having someone like Rachel in the home makes it much easier because she is able to pave the way for others and encourage them to press toward the goals set before them.