Cowboys, seniors develop students’ characters

Posted 12/20/12

A pilot program at Jefferson High School in Edgewater can be summed up in one word: powerful. The program, “Street Cred,” is a class focused on …

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Cowboys, seniors develop students’ characters

Posted

A pilot program at Jefferson High School in Edgewater can be summed up in one word: powerful.

The program, “Street Cred,” is a class focused on developing character, life skills, critical thinking and self-esteem.

“We named it `Street Cred’ because of the idea of reputations,” said Liz Hofmann, a retired behavior consultant who is working with teacher Dave Medicus to develop the curriculum. “Some are gang members, and they have that conversation where they say, ‘I need to shift from gang affiliation to loyalty to myself.’”

Many of the students have more to worry about than just going to school and maybe working a part-time job.

Many have faced extreme poverty, abuse, pressure from gangs and even, in some cases, homelessness.

To start the shift toward a more positive, productive life and to teach these values, Hofmann is modernizing the 10 life principles found in the book “Cowboy Ethics — What Wall Street Can Learn from the Code of the West” by Jim Owens.

Junior Holly Taylor said the most important lessons she has learned through “Cowboy Ethics” are be tough but fair, and to know where to draw the line.

“The class is great,” Taylor said. “It helped with my grades and my attitude. Mainly it taught me respect toward others. It also taught me to have pride in what you do and about being proud of what you’re doing and who you are.”

In addition to learning about an updated version of the cowboy code, students are paired with a life coach, a senior citizen recruited by Jewish Family Service of Colorado’s Senior Connections program.

The seniors meet with the 20 students every Thursday and just talk.

They talk about grades, family life, issues they may be facing and anything else the students want to address.

“I love it. I’ve loved it since the beginning,” said Lynne Mullen, a life coach and former teacher herself. “My favorite part is the intergenerational aspect. We can learn from them and teach them. It’s a win-win for everybody.”

Mullen and fellow life coach Gayle Drury Murphy, a former tutor, said they have seen so many changes in the students over the course of the semester.

“They have the ability to express themselves and know somebody is listening now,” Drury Murphy said. “There was a lot of aggression and negative behavior. Now the group behavior mellows.”

The students collectively have earned better grades and had better attendance since starting the program.

Many other schools have programs teaching subjects such as “Cowboy Ethics,” but Hofmann said this is the first program being built for inner-city and at-risk students.

The Daniels Fund is helping fund the program in hopes that the curriculum will become a template for programs at other schools.

Students are offered the chance to take the course after being selected by the school’s social workers and counseling staff.

Many of the students who are chosen are bright, but underachieving for some reason or another, Hofmann said.

“It’s using human energy to help each other,” Mullen said.

“Street Cred” is a collaboration between the school, Jewish Family Service of Colorado and school social worker Robert Hawkins’ Supporting People in Need Foundation known as SPIN.

Jewish Family Service of Colorado is looking for more seniors interested in being mentors for the program next semester.

For more information, contact Senior Connections Coordinator Alison Joucovsky at 303-597-5000.

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