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Davis Journal

New program at Bountiful High gives students chance to succeed

Feb 08, 2021 09:23AM ● By Becky Ginos

BOUNTIFUL—School’s a lot on its own. Then throw in the stresses of life and for some kids, that can tip them over the edge. A new program at Bountiful High aims to give students the skills to succeed – in life and school.

“I was teaching kids in remediation for math,” said Bountiful High Remediation Coordinator Alexa Lou Olson. “Students were struggling to understand. Not because they didn’t understand math, but because of emotional problems. Things like their parents are going through a divorce, they lost a family member to suicide, someone in their family is struggling with drugs, or breaking up with a girlfriend, etc. It’s heavy stuff.”

Olson said she realized that in order for students to have academic success, they had to have these mental roadblocks removed. “I went to (Assistant Principal) Doug Hammerschmidt and we came up with a study skills class together. It was for any student that needed to recover credit. We assumed that was the reason why they didn’t get the credit in the first place.”

The class is offered every period on both A and B days, she said. “We teach time management, coping mechanisms and life skills with academics. We’ve seen attendance going up and Fs coming off transcripts. It’s been pretty amazing.”

Students get credit for the class as well, said Olson. “It’s more motivating to come because many of them are short on credit.”

Olson said students are asked to create a two week calendar. “They make a list of what they did yesterday, what they’re going to do tonight, their days with mom or dad if they’re divorced, etc. It’s to help with time awareness and to make a more structured schedule. Then they learn how to map it out so they know what’s coming both in academics and in their personal lives.”

Bountiful High is the first school to offer a program that is so individualized and specialized to students, she said. “It’s also offered in both Spanish and English. That is a huge, huge thing that we can accommodate a lot of students and teach them the skills they need to not fail a class.”

COVID has had a big impact on students as well, said Olson. “I had a student who was struggling last February. School was where he needed to be. He died of suicide over the summer.”

Students need to know that school is a safe place to be, she said. “When my student died, it really sparked in me the need for more individualized and personalized care. Even the tone of my voice and how I talked to them changed. We need to be patient and validate the student’s emotions.”

The program is in its infancy, said Olson. “I think if all high schools adopted this kind of mentality we’d see more academic success.”

Some of these kids haven’t talked to anyone the whole time they’ve been in school, she said. “Now they’re sitting by a friend. It’s awesome how important this has been for friendships. Without SEL (Social Emotional Learning) in the classroom we wouldn’t see any academic success.”