Cottage Grove sentinel. (Cottage Grove, Or.) 1909-current, January 31, 2018, Page 6A, Image 6

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from A1
Have you considered
suicide in the last 30 days?
Statewide: 18.2 percent
Kennedy: 22.7 percent.
Have you eaten less
than you felt you should
have because there wasn’t
enough money to buy food?
Statewide: 17.8. percent.
Kennedy: 26.1.
Drank at least one
alcoholic drink in the last
30 days?
Statewide: 27 percent.
Kennedy: 31.8
Marijuana use within the
last 30 days?
Statewide: 20.9
Kennedy: 38.1
Have you ever had sexual
Statewide: 40.9
Kennedy: 45.5
The percentages read like the
stereotypical statistics from an
alternative high school. They do
drugs, they drink, they have sex.
But in comparing the statistics
from Kennedy to traditional high
schools across the state it’s clear
that “good kids” do too. In some
cases, near the same rate as the
kids at Kennedy suggesting that
the “alternative” students and
“traditional” students are neck-
and-neck in their developmental
Except for one.
The statement “I can
do most things if I try,” is
pretty much true.
Statewide: 45 percent.
Kennedy: 52.4 percent.
Statistics are tricky with the
state-wide average showing that
45.4 percent of kids thought the
statement was “very true” and
only 23.8 percent at Kennedy
agreeing but Clarke attributes the
difference between "pretty much"
and "very" true to a broad teenage
trait that maybe more potent at
Kennedy: skepticism.
Kennedy kids may not be fully
on board with the idea that if they
try, they can do it, they believe it
to be a mostly true premise and
overheard conversations in-be-
tween lessons offer an insight.
Kennedy students are curious and
they don’t accept an answer with-
out a coherent reason.
In Danny Henson’s language
arts and social studies class, dis-
cussions about peak oil, its effect
on the environment, its history as
a power-source and possible re-
placements in the near future are
littered with interruptions and in-
terjections questioning the plausi-
bility of an argument and founda-
tions of the facts being presented.
They want to know more before
signing off on a concept and buy-
ing into a premise.
“Yeah, I don’t know why,”
Kennedy Principal Halie Ketch-
er said in addressing the leap of
Kennedy students over the state
average. She noted that a posi-
tive thought process known as
“growth mindset” is encouraged
throughout the district, not just at
Kennedy. “We have guesses but
we don’t know what it is.”
Current Cottage Grove princi-
pal and former Kennedy principal
Mike Ingman also has a guess as
to why it works.
“If you’re asking why kids end
up believing in themselves, it’s
because the adults around them
start believing in them,” he said.
“You know, you got (teacher)
Vickie Costello telling you, ‘No
you can do this.’ No, I can’t. ‘No
you can, and I’m not going to
give up on you until its done.’”
If holding group and individual
therapy sessions allows Guhu and
Clarke an insight into the lives of
the students at Kennedy and re-
inforces the idea that they don’t
confront mental health issues ab-
normal to the teenage experience,
it also provides an understanding
of their apparent optimism.
“The students here have an op-
portunity to prove to themselves
that they can do something they
never thought they could,” Clarke
“Many of them have been
tossed out of the regular school
system and said you know, you’re
bad, you’re a problem or perceive
that’s what has been said about
them. There’s all ways to end
up in an alternative school. And
some it’s by choice. Some kids do
come here because they see that
they have more effi cacy. Once
they get here, there’s an expecta-
tion that they’re going to achieve
because they need to they can see
the outcome of their work. When
we’re in traditional school, it’s
not quite so obvious,” she said.
That evidence is provided at
Kennedy through hands-on learn-
ing during fi eld trips to wetlands
restoration site Quamish, the
on-campus garden, spark class-
es and an autonomy in program
choice. It’s about ownership here.
Even in group. Though, every
child who walks through the door
of room eight does not have an
explicit mental health issue and
not every child with a mental
health issue visits room eight. It’s
a process.
According to Guhu, a student
can come to him through a myr-
iad of ways. A visit to Ketcher
with a request for services could
have them sitting with Clarke to
best decide a course of action or
administrators and teachers may
suggest SLMH services to stu-
“They get here in every way
you can imagine,” Clarke said.
“Other students, their relationship
with Girin already, their knowing
about it before they get to school
because somebody used to go to
school here went to group, to the
principal, to the teacher, to Jolie
in the offi ce. They get to services
both group and individual like ev-
ery way there is.”
Blaize Shawbuck had no inter-
est and no desire to meet with a
counselor. To the 14-year-old, it
felt unnecessary. This service was
not going to do anything for him.
Or so he thought.
But with SLMH, Blaize began
attending therapy sessions during
the school days. He participat-
ed in both one-on-one meetings
and in group sessions and started
creating relationships and bonds
with counselors and peers.
“When I knew about the South
Lane Mental Health with the
school I took advantage of it. I
totally did as I needed it. But like
I said, I didn’t really want to at
fi rst. I didn’t really realize what
I needed at fi rst until we started
talking,” he said.
What Blaize had been seeking
without explicitly knowing it was
to be a part of a community. And
by attending these therapy ses-
sions with peers who were will-
ing to talk in an honest and can-
did manner about both their lives,
connections were made.
“If we didn’t have that ex-
perience together we probably
wouldn’t even communicate with
each other. We’re same school
but like it takes activities and
things to bring us together, you
know what I mean?” said Blaize
who went on to recommend the
services to other students.
“I have several friends that
don’t like opening up really
that came here, enrolled in the
program of South Lane Mental
Health and they start getting a
connection with the counselors
here and they actually start com-
ing to school more. It’s actually
really, really great to see that,” he
Fast-forward to present-day
and Blaize who will be graduat-
ing in the spring is wearing a hat
with his name stitched across it as
he sits in the Kennedy gymnasi-
The 18-year-old was named a
star student at an all-school as-
sembly. As his commitment and
dedication was praised by teacher
Brandi Baker-Rudicell, he was
described as being a positive
embodiment of what the school
stands for. He has found his com-
“I know everyone here, liter-
ally everyone here. And I’ve had
some sort of connection with and
I’ve done something with them as
in an activity or something out-
side of the classroom that brought
us together,” he said.
“It’s a great environment, it’s
very positive. Open,” he said
with a pause. “Open arms. Like, I
don’t know, we’re just accepting
of everything. Everyone. Who
you are. And always leave room
for growth.”
Kennedy has a reputation. It’s
for the “bad kids.” But statewide
data is questioning that stereotype
and providing an additonal sta-
tistical leg to stand on for admin-
istrators and teachers who have
been saying this all along: Ken-
nedy kids aren’t bad. They’ve just
chosen a different educational en-
Call Paul to
help simplify
the complicated.
Illustration by Kennedy
student Keenan
“I told this to kids and I told
this to parents, I know there’s
a stigma,” Ingman said of the
community’s perception of Ken-
nedy. “I can spend my energy
going around Cottage Grove
selling why Kennedy is so great
or I could put my energy with the
kids that are in my building at the
time. And I made the decision
that I was going to work with kids
and not work to change adult’s
perceptions of what Kennedy is.”
In the 30 years Kennedy has
been an option for students, its
classrooms have seen children
who got in trouble at Cottage
Grove High School. It’s seen teen
mothers and fl unking seniors and
GED students. But it’s also seen
students who want one-on-one
attention from teachers, smaller
classes and a cohort model be-
cause they just do better academ-
ically when their classroom has a
fewer students and more under-
Clarke draws a singular thread
in the web of possible circum-
stances that may lead a student to
Kennedy, citing a child diagnosed
with ADD who may need more
freedom in the classroom. They
come to a school like Kennedy
and fi nd the environment forgiv-
ing, more understanding of their
“There are a group of humans
that are like that and we’re not
-- we don’t really have, we don’t
naturally go oh you’re this kind of
human, that’s the kind of school
you need. And you’re this kind of
human, that’s the kind of school
you need,” she said. “And when
we get to that point I think we’re
not going to see a place for bad
kids. You’re not ever going to get
to be a bad kid. You’re going to
be a kid that thinks and learns
this way. But until we get there…
we’re going to have the kids
who don’t fi t. Even if they’re not
called bad kids anymore they’re
the kids who don’t fi t.
“And some kids are noticing
that. I’ve done intakes with some
kids who are like, there’s been
the conversation in their fami-
ly of should I go to Al Kennedy
or should I go to Cottage Grove
High because I’m kind of a dif-
ferent thinker and it seems like Al
Kennedy would be a good place
but that’s where the bad kids go-
right, that comes in the conscious
of the family. Kids usually know
where they belong.”
And whether its conscious or
not, the kids at Kennedy seem to
know something students around
the state are, statistically, still
coming to. But where their “can-
do” attitude comes from, still has
the adults around them unable to
pinpoint an exact origin. Clarke
though, takes a guess.
“Their social environment—
family, friends—have been prob-
ably more challenging than the
typical person throughout their
lifespan. So, they’ve had more
barrier to overcome and, when
you have more barriers to over-
come and you succeed, you cre-
ate resilience. And these kids are
incredibly resilient.”
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