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Doing Your Best Earns Recognition

Honor Makes Them Work Even Harder, They Say


There’s a growing group of students at Mill Creek Middle School wearing green and yellow T-shirts with the words “Got PRIDE” on them.

The sixth-through-eighth-graders received the shirts from staff in recognition of doing their personal best. PRIDE, which stands for Personal Responsibility in Daily Effort, is a school-wide effort started in September to motivate students in academics and to encourage them to be a team player, work hard and be respectful.

“I think it’s really making people feel like they achieved something,” said eighth-grader Haley Palmquist, who received a shirt for class participation and reaching out to new students. “It signifies a lot more than a T-shirt. It signifies that you are trying really hard and doing your best.”

The idea for the program came from the staff’s School Improvement Team.

“The motivation was that, if you look at schools that have made turnarounds when everything is against them and yet they shine, it’s because there’s a spirit of, ‘I can do it,’” said Principal Gus Harju. “It’s developing that mindset that we want kids to strive for.”

Everyone Can Earn It

Teachers recommend students for Got PRIDE. Of 465 students school-wide, 95 had been awarded T-shirts as of mid-March.

“You don’t have to be an all A student, we just want you to try your hardest every single hour, every day, every week, every month,” Harju said, noting that it’s not just the academic superstars who stand out. It’s inclusive of all students. “Just show us you’re trying your hardest,” he said.

Sixth-grader Julia McKay received a shirt for doing her best on homework, participating in class and being involved and engaged.

“PRIDE makes kids want to try harder. It feels like there’s an expectation,” she said.

Eighth-grader Tony Racalla said he sees more students focused on schoolwork. He received a shirt for working hard in language arts class.

“I see a lot of people trying to get good grades and do their best,” he said.

Eighth-grade language arts teacher Mike Swift said he loves having a way to recognize students. “What I like about PRIDE is it gives me an opportunity to document when kids are doing the right things in class for the right reasons. I like to be able to catch that, because a lot of my time is spent documenting when kids could be making improvements.”

Got PRIDE is a lead-in for the “Leader in Me” initiative, to be launched next fall at Mill Creek, and already in place at the district’s Pine Island and Stoney Creek elementary schools. “Leader in Me” is a whole-school transformation model developed by Steven Covey, and based on seven habits of leadership.

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio

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