To Whom It May Concern:
If you are like me you are always looking for that magic formula that makes kids want to learn, keeps them out of trouble, increases their attendance, etc. At JHC we think we have found one such formula. First of all, let me tell you what our formula cures as I retell a real life story at our school.
Johnny’s mother called me asking me to let him transfer from our Day Treatment Center to our school. Then a fourth grader all I could think of was how am I going to ever get a writing portfolio out of him. Since I knew the family and the special education coordinator assured me she would be there to help if needed, I agreed.
After Johnny was officially mine, I learned the REST OF THE STORY. Johnny spent the first few years in a sister school terrorizing teachers, students, and a few principals. Desks had been thrown as often as fists and curse words. One teacher has even been to the emergency room as a result of an encounter with Johnny. Johnny had also been to our Alternative Learning Center. No success there either. No real learning was taking place.
Since he was not responding to the ALC, the district decided to try a Day Treatment Center placement. In this placement, he received daily counseling and educational services. Just prior to my call from his mother, the Day Treatment staff suspended Johnny until he was hospitalized to get his behavior medication regulated.
Being as positive as I could, I greeted him as he entered the school on his first day. He was welcomed by all the students and staff. He made no indication either verbal or facial of whether he liked us or not. A blank stare was all we had for a few days. Soon thereafter the HONEYMOON was over. He hit, spit, cursed, tried to bite, (I could go on). He visited my office multiple times each day. I made a promise to him that and I quote “You are not going anywhere no matter how mean, bad, or rude you are. YOU are MY student and I am going to keep you here at this school.” I was hoping that just saying those words would make a life-changing difference in his life. No such luck.
Our 21st Century Learning Center was in full swing when our coordinator, Ronda, approached me about starting an archery program. My first response was, “Bows and Arrows type Archery?” I said, “NO…End of discussion!” She passed along a few websites, KDE connections, and reviews from others. When I discovered that this was a legitimate deal, I discussed it further with her.
As the archery program started, Ronda told me she was letting Johnny join in on the team. I, again, said, “NO….End of Discussion!” No way was I going to give this guy a weapon and let him shoot it. Who knew what he would do with that thing. I dreamed for a night or two that he was chasing me down the hall with an arrow aimed at my behind.
Johnny did start on the team.
Archery slowly transformed Johnny…..not into the perfect child, but into a nice kid. He took pride in himself, behaved better, and talked to other kids. I will never forget the first time I saw him smile. He was having his picture made with his bow and the target. HE SMILED! Mrs. Ronda took the picture around to everyone she knew. His mother couldn’t believe that HE SMILED! Johnny’s former class pictures have a much different appearance. He didn’t look at the camera and he surely didn’t smile.
He finished his fourth grade portfolio, he completed the CATS test, and he passed all of his classes while at our school. He no longer has the services of our Life Skills program. Is he perfect? He may not even be normal yet, but he has a chance now. He has been at the middle school for one semester so far. He has not been suspended. He has not been to ALC. He has not been in trouble. He has been in his classes. He has come a long way!
Archery was a great formula for Johnny. I would like to be able to say, “Wasn’t that a great idea I had?”, but I do take great pride and I love to say, “Isn’t it great that our school made a difference in his life.” Where would he be today without archery? Where would he be today without Mrs. Ronda? Where would he be today without his other archery coaches Mark and Troy?
I could go on with another story about a boy who was so withdrawn that he wouldn’t look or talk to anyone when he arrived at our school. He had been home schooled for several years when he joined our school. He couldn’t read. After archery and too many bulls eyes to count, he is now walking as if he was lighter than air. His head held high, spark in his eye, and a smile on his face is all the proof I need that archery changes kids. With the interventions that are allowed, he scored Proficient on the practical living test. He still can’t read, but he is a changed young man. It is such a thrill for him for his school to be proud of him. This young man has a future made possible by archery. He will be successful. He may never be able to write a book, but hopefully he can hire someone to write his ideas for him.
I am not one that is all about programs. This program would not have been successful in meeting needs of these and others just like them if it had not been for the people running the program. The encouraging words, risks taken, sacrifices made, and love expressed made this program great and made and continue to make life changing differences in children's lives each day.
I trust that you will feel free to contact me at any time for more information. I would love to share other successful stories about how archery has made a difference with our kids.
Principal Mike Gee, Monroe County
Joe Harrison Carter Elementary School
Tompkinsville, Kentucky 42167