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HHS focuses on good character
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HOISINGTON — While character education is common in elementary school and junior high schools, it is unusual to find high schools that are teaching responsibility, honesty, and making good choices, but Hoisington High is doing just that.

New HHS principal Meg Wilson, along with the school district and staff, have developed multiple approaches to achieve those goals. "We want to get back to a service-oriented curriculum," said Wilson. "We have a lot of great things going on."

The district has implemented use of the All Stars program, which is a pilot program in high schools. It is research-based and designed to prevent substance abuse, bullying, fighting and delinquency. It promotes positive characteristics such as idealism, commitment to positive lifestyles, wholesome standards, resiliency, and positive relations with parents and adults. It has already been used in Hoisington Middle School.

The class is required for all freshmen, and is taught by Todd Hadnot, supervisor of the St. Francis Community Outreach Service along with outreach specialist Salli Mattison."We want them to think about their futures and try and direct them in that direction," said Hadnot. "We want them to understand what they need to get to where they want to go. The goal is to delay the onset of risky behaviors.

"We focus on transition ages," said Hadnot. "Research has shown it is best to reach kids during transitions."

Hadnot teaches All Stars at 15 schools throughout the state. The program is funded by grants.

The students have a voice in the structure of the class and will make a commitment video. The school also performed a survey of their students to determine what they need to know, according to Wilson.

"What we need to develop will be integrated into the school day so the students can internalize it," said Wilson. "It’s for students doing the right thing. Little things make a big difference."

The students learn to set goals and become goal oriented. The act of writing these targets down helps them focus and think about their strengths, what they are interested in and what they enjoy, said Wilson.

In addition, the school has removed all pop from the school, and the food and nutrition class makes and sells nutritious snacks and bottles of water for 25 cents each.

"They fit in with nutrition guidelines," Wilson said, of the snacks. She said that since students arrive at school at 7:30 a.m., they’ve not always had a good breakfast.

The nutrition classes are doing this project as a service, the principal said. "The kids do all of the bookkeeping and have taken total ownership."

When students’ physical, social and emotional needs are met, she said, they are better able to learn.

Another program the school implemented this fall is working with students who are receiving Ds or Fs. Wilson receives a list of those students receiving those grades, and schedules a meeting with teachers, the student, and parents to set up SMART Goals for the student. SMART stands for Sustainable, Measurable, Actionable, and Reasonable. The student has to agree to all of the goals

"I’ve met with 18 students in the past three weeks," she said. "They are showing improvement. If they don’t, we are missing something. We want to put plans in place for students to be successful."

The school promotes leadership and service through student organizations. Those organizations include SkillsUSA, Key and Family, Career and Community Leaders of Amercia.

As an educator and principal, Wilson has had a strong interest in character education, and advocated with all of the national Kansas lawmakers including Sam Brownback, Jerry Moran, Pat Roberts and Todd Tiahrt in Washington, D.C., to explain the significance of character education and for funding.

She worked with Coach Roger Barta in Smith Center for years. Barta and the Redmen football team were the subject of the "Our Boys" book by Joe Drape and have been the subject of many news stories of the coach and community building character within the team.

"I’ve always known as a teacher it is key to build relationships with students," said Wilson. "I learned a lot from coach — empower people to do what they do best."

At the Partnership for Character Education National Convention in October in San Francisco, Wilson was part of the panel that spoke on "Advocacy for Character Education."