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COACHING KIDS IN THE CLASSROOM: WHS develops a graduation game plan for at-risk students

April 3, 2013

Sariah Morgan (left), program coordinator for the Kosciusko County Educational Development group (KC-Ed), presents Steve Clason, Whitko Community Schools superintendent, with a $1,500 check to support a graduation coach at Whitko High School. Photo contributed

SOUTH WHITLEY — Whitko High School has made graduation an area of focus for juniors.

With the implementation of a graduation coach, Principal David Parker is looking to target students who might otherwise fall through the cracks and miss graduating.

“These are kids that sort of fly under the radar,” Parker said. “Some of them realize too late that they needed to do certain things to graduate. Having a coach that keeps an eye on attendance, grades and credits will hopefully keep them from feeling like graduation is not possible.”

Laura Smiley, an Advance Placement English teacher at WHS, has taught for 30 years, 26 of them at Whitko. She agreed to take on the role of graduation coach in order to invest in students who she might not encounter in the classroom.

“Most of the students I see in class are academically driven,” Smiley said. “But I have a heart to see students succeed at whatever level they want to be at. As the graduation coach, I have the chance to build relationships with these kids — that’s the part that is really rewarding.”

Coaching the students to success is not a disciplinary function, but a chance to praise students for their accomplishments and cheer them on to a better future.

“I write them notes to let them know someone cares about them and what they might be struggling with,” Smiley said. “Some of these students have big issues they are facing outside of the classroom and at home. We just can’t turn a blind eye to that and expect them to come to school without that having an impact on their studies.”

Life skills and emotional management are two areas Smiley has focused on in recent months.

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