CLASS TEACHES AT-RISK TEENS NEW WAY TO LIVE
By Veda Morgan
Brian Carter, 15, has a hard time explaining how his life changed
so quickly, so dramatically.
“I wasn’t going to school. I was getting drunk or getting
high. I’d go to school maybe once a week,” the McQueen High student
“I didn’t really have my head screwed on right.”
Carter took a class last semester that he says changed all that.
“It taught me how to deal with anger and set goals and be a
better person. It’s hard to explain. It just makes you feel
good about yourself—like you’re worth something.”
Carter and four other students told more than 200 teachers gathered
Monday at McQueen High how their lives have been changed by a class that
teaches high school students to take control of their lives by communicating
more effectively, claiming their self-esteem and making responsible choices.
The teachers, most from McQueen and Sparks High School, are
attending a two-day workshop to learn about the concepts used in the class
from its creator, Connie Dembrowsky.
Dembrowsky, a former teacher from New Mexico, created the curriculum
in 1988. It’s now used throughout the nation, Canada, Europe, South
America and the Orient.
Wooster, McQueen and Hug high schools offer the classes primarily
through their at-risk programs. McQueen High also offers a similar
class for parents. It is financed by a $9,000 grant the school won from
First Interstate Bank.
The program has been so successful that McQueen plans to double
the courses it offers students from three to six, said Cinda Gifford, alternative
education teacher and dean of students.
And several area middle schools are planning to implement similar
curricula Dembrowsky has designed for middle schools, Gifford said.
The class is mostly for students having difficulty in school
and has a dramatic impact on at-risk students, Dembrowsky said.
“The most typical thing that kids find is once they go through
the course, it makes life easier for them. They feel empowered.”
McQueen student Billy Tiehm, 15, didn’t like to talk to his
parents because it would usually lead to a fight. But the skills
he learned in his teen success class motivated him to try.
“One night when my mom came home from work, I asked her how
her day was,” Tiehm said. “My mom said her day was good and she said,
‘Thank you for asking,’ and smiled. That was when I first realized
that the class was really going to help me.”
Tiehm’s gradepoint average also improved, from 1.70 last year
to 2.83. “The class taught me to be responsible. I felt guilty
if I didn’t do my homework,” he said.
Christal Bland, 16, got upset and dumped a soda over a student’s
head last year. She got suspended.
“I was kind of a mean person,” she said. But the class
has made a difference. “It wasn’t necessary,” Bland said of the incident.
“There are a lot of options for everything.”
Sharon Wise, 15, says she’s more positive now since taking the
“I know I have changed from this class,” she said. “Before
the class, everything was everybody else’s fault. Now we know it’s
our problem and that we should deal with it.”
Aimee Bonomo, 15, found confidence in the class. “I care
more about me and my life now,” she said. “Before, I didn’t care.
I didn’t care about me. I didn’t care about anything.”