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The Huynh family (father Tho, Alisha, Hannah,and mother Anh) participates in a "minute to win it" game during the TEAMS Program get acquainted kick off picnic at Bluffs Middle School.
TEAMS work to keep kids involved in school, headed toward college
By David Ostdiek, Communications Associate
Panhandle Research and Extension Center
Maybe it takes a village to raise a child, but it definitely takes a family to help a child earn a high-school diploma.
Family support is the idea behind the TEAMS program (for Together Everyone Achieves More Success), designed to improve middle-school and high-school students’ chances of staying in school, graduating, and attending college. About two dozen middle-school students, ninth graders and their families are currently involved in TEAMS in Scotts Bluff County.
Statistics say 5 in every 100 young people in high school drop out. In Nebraska, it’s an average of 29 students per day. When students drop out, they are less likely to work, more likely to need social services such as welfare and Medicaid, and more likely to commit crimes. That’s not to mention the financial benefits of staying in school: Average annual income for somebody with a bachelor’s degree is $52,671, about three times the average $17,299 earned by high-school drop-outs.
TEAMS helps students build useful skills, and helps them and their families navigate the school system. While the students, parents and siblings meet for regular activities, they get to have fun while developing these key skills.
TEAMS is open to seventh- eighth-, and ninth-grade students with a grade average of C or better who meet income guidelines and would be the first of their family to attend college. The program provides these students, and their parents, with experience in skill building, networking, mentoring, resources and exposure to the college atmosphere.
In Scotts Bluff County the program is coordinated by Pat Randolph, who with her husband, Larry, work with 12 students at Minatare and 17 from Scottsbluff, along with their families. The program is funded by a federal grant for children, youth and families through UNL Extension. Jackie Guzman, a UNL Extension educator, also assists with the program. There is no cost to the participants.
When students are selected for TEAMS, their parents or guardians also must participate. The Randolphs meet weekly with the students and their parents for activities designed around themes such as finances, college scholarships, family communication, careers, team building, and building a portfolio. And they are given activities to complete at home.
Monthly family nights bring together the students, parents and also siblings. These evenings also have themed lessons to reinforce what the students have learned in class. The families also attend monthly Super Saturdays put on by the Western Nebraska Community College Cougars.
The Randolphs say collaboration is key to the success of TEAMS – not only with students’ families, but also personnel from the school systems and Western Nebraska Community College (WNCC).
They include counselors Glenda Ehler, teacher Carolyn Escamilla, principal Andrew Dick, and assistant principal Bert Wright, all at BMS, and principal Kyle Metzger at Minatare. At WNCC, TEAMS has collaborated with students from Linda Mattern Ritts’ classes in early childhood to develop activity curricula for the siblings. And Ryan Bergman, the Athletic director, puts on a “Super Saturday” once a month at WNCC. These involve activities with the Cougar athletic teams, vocal music department, career counseling, and technology in the Harms Discovery Lab.
TEAM’s main purpose, according to Pat Randolph, is guiding the entire family through the educational system. “In the parent meeting, I reinforce what I’ve talked to the students about so they can reinforce it at home,” she said. “We believe that parent involvement is the key to success for students – not just in TEAMS, but all students.”
“That’s been the key in this program,” Larry Randolph adds. “We’ve got great parent involvement, and even the schools are surprised.”
To help the middle school students make the transition to high school, a mentoring program that has been developed in cooperation with guidance counselors from Scottsbluff High School. Working with Scottsbluff High School counselors Rick Cantril, Julia Newman and Jerilyn Donovan, the Randolphs have recruited SHS seniors, juniors and sophomores to volunteer as mentors to help the TEAMS students. “When they went into the high school, it was a lot easier transition, because they knew somebody at the high school,” Pat Randolph said.
“The support is just phenomenal from the community – the schools, the college. All I have to do is ask and the people are there. It’s just phenomenal,” she said.