Ridge Program Promotes "Success Through Integrity" Bright Builders Develops Leadership Skills, Friendships

Ridge Program Promotes "Success Through Integrity" Bright Builders Develops Leadership Skills, Friendships
For a group of seventh- and eighth-graders at Ridge Junior School, the most difficult part of playing a recent game of Jenga wasn’t removing blocks but answering the discussion questions printed on them. For example, one student’s block posed, “What do you wish your parents knew about you?”

Through a new ten-week after school program called “The Bright Builders,” students develop leadership and communication skills. Informal discussions and plenty of teamwork and hands-on activities, coupled with fun and friendship, offer the perfect mix.

“We wanted to offer a program that aligns with our school initiative to promote success through integrity,” says Nicole Stewart, school counselor. “We incorporated a wide range of topics that this age of students are challenged by as well as focus on community service so they can better understand the importance of serving others.”

Topics include the struggles of being a teenager, self-esteem, peer influence, responsibility, decision-making, goal-setting, stress and anger management, dealing with friend issues, and how to be a mentor for other youth. Their service learning project - holding a movie night fundraiser to benefit Children’s Hospital – was entirely student-led, from deciding which non-profit to help to assigning planning and event tasks.

The Bright Builders is based on a program created by Brittany Walling at Envision Partnerships. Walling co-leads the group with Stewart, helping with the activities and conversation.

“Students often have opportunities to be involved in sports or performance-based extracurricular activities, so we wanted this to be unique in that it is focused on interpersonal and social skills,” adds Stewart.

And it’s working. Seventh-grader Ben Simpson says, “I was nervous coming here since I was new, but this group is fun and I’ve made lots of friends. I like when we get to work together because everyone helps each other. When we did the memorization activity, the other students helped by cheering you on.”

Michaela Tracey, seventh grade student, agrees. “I really like that we work together to help people. It’s not just in here, but when we’re in school each day, we’re friends.”