Swift Creek High School has welcomed 28 brand new students for the 2019-2020 school year. With 22 returning students, that brings school enrollment to 50 students. Most new students are Sophomores, but several are Juniors and Seniors as well.
Staff members at SCHS have worked hard to create a strong culture of family, respect and self-management at the school. Having so many new students means dedicated and focused instruction about that culture.
“We have done some purposeful challenges with them,” said Tyler Jack, SCHS Principal. “We did a hike challenge at the Snow King ropes course. They had to overcome some fears there. We also hiked up Cemetery Peak and we did some activities up there the first day of school.”
“We have had a tradition the last three years when we hiked that hill,” said Jack. “We take a huge rock that they carry on the hike. They all carry the rock for a while. Each person helps. When we get to the top of the hill, they all sign the rock as a pledge and a commitment. We do an analogy about the principle that we didn’t come this far to only come this far. We talk about the hike and how many years of school they have each completed and the fact that they are so close, and they need to finish. After we sign that rock, they all help carry it down. We place those rocks in the trophy case at the school.”
All the new students are completing an intensive Discovery Program that all students who attend SCHS take.
“We have built a culture in the school that we love and want to maintain, and our fear was that we might lose that with so many new students,” said Jack. “So, all the new students are in our Discovery class all day long each day for the first 6 weeks of the year. They are separate from the other students while they are going through Discovery and learning the culture and the school system.”
“It’s good to have the program condensed where it’s the only thing students are doing for 6 weeks,” said Jack. “The skills are really ingrained in them. They aren’t just hearing about them. They are role-playing and practicing. They are in a controlled environment where they are being trained and taught those skills in an intense curriculum. They learn things like effective communication, conflict resolution, managing assertion vs. aggression and problem-solving. It’s a great program.”
When the new students complete the Discovery Program, and have a vision of the school culture, they are presented with Swift Creek hoodies and are welcomed as official Bulldogs.
“It usually takes about 2 weeks before students buy into the system and the skills they are learning, and then start applying them,” said Jack. “Parents often call after about 2 weeks and ask what we have done with their student because the student is different — more respectful, more cooperative. They have learned a new set of life skills. We continue to revisit the program principles throughout the school year, and we use a common language in the building to continually refresh it.”
Jack and his staff are completely converted to the value of the culture at SCHS. “I was a school psychologist for ten years before coming to Swift Creek and it’s really hard to make a change in adolescents. The Discovery Program is one of the few things I have seen that creates a genuine change. It’s a great thing and it changes kids’ lives.”