DOWNEY - To encourage and reward student achievement in as many areas as possible, Griffiths Middle School has been handing out awards on a regular basis under its so-called Renaissance program.The program, in operation now for a dozen years, has two facets: one is the monthly recognition of students who demonstrate outstanding or otherwise praiseworthy effort not only in academics but for such things as being helpful to others or otherwise exhibiting meaningful, purposeful activity in any area of student life. Thus at the appropriate morning assemblies, the awards for 'student of the month', the student who's made the (most) outstanding effort at something, and the student who's modeled the six pillars of character, each determined by their classroom teachers, are handed out to the winners to much cheering and hoopla. The buzz and excitement generated in these monthly assemblies, however, is nothing compared to the level of exhilaration accompanying its twice yearly big award ceremonies. These honor the top academic achievers and occur in May and October. The 8th and 7th grade students with 3.5-4.0 GPAs are rewarded with gold cards, those with 3.0-3.49 GPAs get silver cards, and those with 2.5-2.9 GPAs get blue cards. As far as the hard-working kids are concerned, the real fun part lies in the gold card holders receiving four homework passes and four passes to early lunch; silver holders getting two homework passes and two early lunch passes; with the blue card holders receiving one homework pass and one pass to early lunch. The 4.0 GPAs are also awarded Griffiths T-shirts. Last Oct. 13, 133 8th graders (or 28 percent of total) won golds, 88 (or 18 percent of total) got silvers, and 85 (17 percent of total) got blue cards. Forty-one (8 percent of total with 4.0 GPAs) won Griffiths T-shirts. The numbers among 7th graders were even more telling: 165 kids (or 35 percent of total) earned gold cards, 97 (or 20 percent of total) got silvers, and 83 (or 17 percent of total) got blue ones. Students getting 4.0 GPAs numbered 52 (11 percent of total), also earning T-shirts. These raucous celebrations feature a Walk of Fame, where the teachers line up on opposite sides and cheer the announced student winners as they walk through. Sally English, one of three counselors (the other two: head counselor Julie Main and Alan Toledo) on campus, says: "It's a great celebration. We have a chance to cheer the students' accomplishments, and they love it. They're so happy to be recognized." "If we could motivate students to practice their math and English skills as eagerly as they practice shooting baskets or skateboarding tricks, we would have 100 percent of students receiving Renaissance cards," she added. Coordinator of the program is art teacher Ed Plant, who has taught the subject for 15 years, has been an ASB advisor for six years, and an after-school sports coach of volleyball, football, baseball, basketball, and track and field for the last 12 years--all at Griffiths. Plant, who is married with three kids, says: "I believe that students succeed when they are involved and engaged in their education, whether it's through relevant classroom instruction or fun activities that focus on school spirit and community pride. My emphasis has always included raising student leaders to be a positive force or example on campus and in the community." GMS principal is Gregg Stapp.
********** Published: October 21, 2010 - Volume 9 - Issue 27