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WASILLA — Three years ago, Wasilla High School adopted a program called Capturing Kids’ Hearts (CKH) of the Flippen Group, which equips all teachers and staff with the proper skills to go out of their way with the mission to create positive relationships with their students and improve lives. On April 7, WHS discovered that they had gone beyond and were selected as one of the Capturing Kids’ Hearts National Showcase Schools.

“I think it’s wonderful. The award lets us share all the good things that are happening at WHS. It is a platform that helps us let the community know what a good school Wasilla is and how great our kids are,” said assistant principal Carol Boatman. “It was a big surprise and honor for us.”

Students spend over 1,000 hours inside a classroom each year. This time makes it possible for remarkable outcomes to occur, especially when the environment is filled with trust, respect, and individuals who care.

However, WHS assistant principal Jeff Nelles said it can be a challenge for that to happen without a purposeful mission and plan like CKH.

“In the past three years our climate has completely transformed. We are kinder and gentler; I deal with fewer cases of bullying and cyber drama than before. We still have ups and downs of course, but our kids here have really learned how to look out for each other,” Nelles said.

To add onto the positive changes at WHS, graduation rates have increased dramatically since CKH was implemented. In 2013 the graduation rate was at 76 percent and grew to 92 percent in 2015.

The improvements in relationships and discipline and graduation at WHS have been so significant that they were recognized on a national level. WHS was nominated at the beginning of January to be the showcase school for the CKH program. In late January, the Flipen Group’s national representative Dr. Debbie Emery visited the school as a possible showcase site. She interviewed students and staff, toured the school’s multiple programs, and observed the peer interaction-taking place.

“I am incredibly impressed with how these students treat one another,” Emery said. “It isn’t very common to have such a great number of individuals in a student body and for all of them to be so respectful to one another.”

CKH has also positively affected the teachers by being a tool to use on improving their relationships with one another and their teaching abilities.

“For many students it is a great program as it is for many teachers, the ability to work with the program and make it fit your classroom is the best aspect. My hand shaking routine might look different as other teachers but the same results happen, ” said APEX teacher and current student intern with Special Service Kent Rilatos.

Nelles remarked how in just three years of being a part of Warrior Nation, CKH has already made a positive difference, making it hard to imagine how much more of an influence it will have in three more years.

“We will always have room for improvement. This is an age of technology which can cause a large disconnect between everyone. I see us minimizing that disconnect and growing on the teacher student and teacher relationships,” Nelles said.

This is the first year for CKH showcase schools. Wasilla High was chosen as a premier school out of over 1000 CKH schools in the nation.

Shyanne Massie is a sophomore at WHS. She writes for the Warrior Word and Mat Su Gazette

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