B.A.R.R. program improves freshmen relationships

Freshman Chance Swenson works on his I Time project. He plans to share this with his team in the up-coming weeks.

Photo by Dylan Stormoen

Freshman Chance Swenson works on his I Time project. He plans to share this with his team in the up-coming weeks.

Dylan Stormoen, Copy Editor

Ninth grade students began filling the halls in August 2017. As the school and its student population grew larger, teachers and staff have been working to create a close-knit community amongst the students, specifically the new freshman. With the B.A.R.R. program, the staff strives to bond with students on not only an academic level, but personal as well.

B.A.R.R. (Building Assets, Reducing Risks) is used in many schools across the nation and proves effective in each. The program, which promotes trusting, healthy relationships between teachers and their students, was brought to SAHS in 2017. It encourages one-on-one time between the staff, to seek out struggling students and find them the help they need. Its goal is to make certain each student is given the best opportunities to succeed their first year of high school.

“We’re trying to build that sense of community through the B.A.R.R program as well as that academic focus,” B.A.R.R. coordinator Katy Pupungatoa said. “We want them [students] to feel like they’re connected.”

Ninth grade can be a difficult year for students as they transition into high school. Not only are students from multiple schools combined to form this grade, but they are also surrounded by over 1000 older students as well. Intimidation and pressure runs high throughout this school year.

With so many choices placed in front of freshmen, Pupungatoa said B.A.R.R. works behind the scenes to help them make the best choices. Factors including their young age, being exposed to new things and going from the top grade to the bottom, are what the program is looking to reduce as risks.

The implementation of this program and its ability to run successfully, relies mostly on teacher participation and effort. The program calls upon teachers and staff to go out of their way to collaborate about students and work to problem solve for them.

Administrator of the B.A.R.R. program, Matt Kraft explained, “Teachers are getting together once a week to talk about shared students. They love the comradery, collaboration and the ability to talk about a student who may be struggling, and together problem solve.”

Teachers and students are both broken up into five teams. In which 98 percent of students in one team all share the same core teachers. This allows for teachers to keep a close eye on each student they have and work with other teachers within their team to build on students’ strengths.

Pupungatoa describes B.A.R.R. teachers as “relationship focused, great listeners, able to collaborate and passionate about what they do and teach.” For that reason, she raves about the current ninth grade teachers and their support for the students they have.

Though the B.A.R.R. program likely goes unnoticed by the freshmen students, some students recognize the work being put in behind the scenes.

“If you have a home problem and talk to a teacher about it, they work with other teachers to help you with school problems at the same time,” freshman Chance Swenson said. “It helps to ease the stress load.”

Since we have the same teachers, it actually helps us more. I can know what’s going in my science or English classes if I missed it because I know the students better.”

— Connor McCormick

Freshmen are more connected with their teachers as personal relationships are formed. At the same time, the teams the program has created can also be used to create helpful student to student relationships as well.

“Since we have the same teachers, it actually helps us more. I can know what’s going in my science or English classes if I missed it because I know the students better,” freshman Connor McCormick explained.

Another way the program promotes connections throughout the team, is through the project “I Time.” This is where students and teachers get to share more about themselves to their team. McCormick says it serves as a “get to know you” that fuels comfortability within a teams’ relationships.

Swenson describes I Time as a way to “team build.” Every two or three weeks, students and teachers gather together in one class period to partake in this project.

All aspects of the B.A.R.R. program have combined to create a successful school year for nearly all ninth grade students. As of April 21, 2019 only 15 students in ninth grade are failing multiple classes. This can be compared to 47 in the junior class or 40 in the senior class. This improvement reflects well on the program as well as the SAHS ninth grade teachers and staff.

Due to the success of B.A.R.R., Pupungatoa said it is working to be implemented in 10th grade by the 2019-20 school year.

“Improvements are due to teachers having eyes on students and wrapping around them when they are struggling or in need of help,” Kraft added. “Hands-on is what ninth graders need at this time in their life, and we know what ninth graders are struggling.”