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P.O. Box 880, La Luz, NM  USA  88337
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Reno Gazette-Journal - Reno, NV
Tuesday, February 23, 1993
"Class Teaches At-Risk Teens New Way to Live"
By Veda Morgan - Gazette-Journal
CLASS TEACHES AT-RISK TEENS NEW WAY TO LIVE
By Veda Morgan
Reno Gazette-Journal


  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 said. 
  “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 class. 
  “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.”


 
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IASD
P.O. Box 880, La Luz, NM USA  88337 • 800-745-0418 • fax 575-437-0524
e-mail: iasd@zianet.com