S.W.A.G. Center Opens At Hartford's Bulkeley High For Well-Behaved Students
Game Room Created With Travelers Grant For School's PBIS Program
By VANESSA DE LA TORRE
March 04, 2013
HARTFORD —— Room 127 at Bulkeley High School just got a lot of S.W.A.G.
"Students with a goal," school administrators explained Monday.
Bulkeley's Upper School has converted the first-floor classroom into a recreation center with table tennis, foosball, board games, air hockey, a karaoke machine, and Xbox 360 Kinect and Nintendo Wii gaming systems to reward students "for doing the right thing," Principal Gayle Allen-Greene said.
Juniors and seniors with excellent attendance for two weeks and perfect compliance with the school's dress code — or who achieve high honors, demonstrate "Bulldog Pride" or attend Bulkeley's Saturday S.W.A.G. Academy for tutoring — can receive a special pass to enter the game room during lunch or advisory class.
The supervised S.W.A.G. center, unveiled for the first time Monday afternoon, is a new incentive for students under Bulkeley's positive behavioral interventions and supports program. PBIS is a national approach to improving discipline and school climate with a focus on interaction and encouraging students to make good choices.
Twenty-six city schools have implemented the PBIS strategy and Bulkeley High's Upper School, in only its second year of the program, has exhibited the best results, said Mario Florez, Hartford's safe school climate coordinator. The school system's hope is for Bulkeley to become a PBIS model for other urban high schools in the country, Florez said.
Disciplinary referrals have declined and the average attendance rate for the Upper School's 399 juniors and seniors has improved to about 87 percent, said Diane Vaughn-Anthony, an attendance case manager and PBIS coach. Bulkeley's Lower School for freshmen and sophomores might start its own PBIS program later this year.
"It's kept kids in the classroom on a more frequent basis," said Scott Basile, a behavior technician at Bulkeley.
One major incentive is Bulkeley Bucks. All staffers, including teachers, custodians and cafeteria workers, can hand out the school currency to juniors and seniors who meet the school's expectations. Students use those bucks at the school store, which offers merchandise such as Bulkeley Bulldog T-shirts, Valentine's Day gifts and even socks.
"They accumulate them like real money," Basile said.
Vaughn-Anthony figured it might cost a student "at least" 60 Bulkeley Bucks to buy a pass to the S.W.A.G. center, which was created with a $2,500 grant from Travelers to support the PBIS program.
Travelers employees also volunteered with Bulkeley staffers to assemble and paint the game room. Their work involved painting paw prints on the wall that include the tenets of "Bulldog Pride": Be Safe. Be Involved. Be Respectful. Be Responsible.
The center features interactive, nonviolent games, said Allen-Greene, who played ping pong Monday with senior Addiel Soto, a 17-year-old that staff considers "most improved" for his grades and attendance.
Soto was absent from school about two to three days a week last year, Vaughn-Anthony said. "I think he matured. He wants to graduate ... I stayed on him: 'If you want to graduate, this is what you need to do.'"
Soto tried out the center's wooden foosball table with Florez and senior Miser Paw, 18, a high honors student.
"This is my first time playing this since I was little," Soto said.
A few feet away, Didier Narcisse, 16, a perfect-attendance junior who says he loves school and has not missed a day of class since eighth grade, broke into a sweat replicating dance moves to Black Eyed Peas' "Boom Boom Pow" on the Xbox.
Spike, the Bulkeley Bulldog mascot, kept up with Narcisse before moving on to the board games. Inside the costume was senior Eric Agron, 17.
"Spike, he's supposed to be in AP Calculus," Allen-Greene said. "He better not be missing that today."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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