Core Values in the Community
By CHRISTA GLEMBOCKI
Dwyer Middle School has an award-winning Positive Behavior and Intervention Support (PBIS) program called GRIT. GRIT stands for Gratitude, Responsibility, Integrity, and Tenacity and teaches all of our students about how to show these core values around campus and throughout their lives. Students who show our values are rewarded with GRITcoin, a digital currency, and GRITbands, wristbands given out monthly. In a typical year, students can spend this digital currency in many ways on campus, such as student stores, raffles, and pop-up shops. With part of the school year being virtual and the current schedule having many guidelines, we were not able to offer all of these fun ways for students to spend their hard earned GRITcoin.
With the pandemic and students feeling disconnected, we decided to reach out to businesses in the community to partner with us. We thought that if students could spend their GRITcoin in the community it would be a win-win – the students are out displaying our core values in the community and our families are supporting small businesses. We now have seven businesses that take GRITcoin for merchandise in their shops! Students are now seeing that displaying these important values can extend into their outside world.
The impact on student motivation has been huge. All staff members can readily give GRITcoin for small deeds each day. The GRIT program and the added incentive of earning real rewards outside of school has kept our students learning and displaying positive behaviors, both virtually and in-person. We have also heard back from some of our new community partners that the students are so excited to visit their store, have been super polite, and that the business owners are loving the positive connections. This also enables us to extend our program into summertime and keep these values fresh in the students’ minds. So far, in just over a month’s time, we have had over 100 transactions in our six partnering shops!
Another impact that we are seeing is that it builds community among our students because they feel part of something bigger. We have heard from parents that their child is so proud to see their school name in a business window and have the opportunity to purchase something with “money” that they earned. It not only teaches responsibility and budgeting, but also that sense of belonging.
Adopt & Adapt
I believe that a similar initiative could be replicated in almost any community. If schools have an existing PBIS program or a motto that students follow, they could share those values with the local community to get them involved. We use a digital currency with a school-made app; however, this could easily be modified with paper coupons for students. Many schools currently have paper-based economies within the PBIS framework. Staff members can email or visit local businesses to build the partnership and explain how having positive, well behaved students visit their store brings positive awareness on both sides. This program can also highlight your school name in a fun way out in the local community. In turn, your school can highlight the businesses on your campus marquee or with poster in the halls. We have seen the wonderful outcomes already of having our school name in store windows all over town. It really brings that community feel full circle!
Adding a partnership program is virtually free. It just takes a few team members or students heading out to the local community to make connections.