- Associated Press - Thursday, October 8, 2015

JASPER, Ind. (AP) - Riding in the back seat of a police car has become a good thing at Jasper High School.

Once a month, two students are selected to go out to lunch with school resource officer Jason Knies as a reward for showing good character and leadership in school. The program, called Law and Let’s Order, is the newest of three awards programs set up by assistant principal Glen Buechlein as a way to interact with students who don’t usually wind up in the office.

“You would have these great kids that come for four years, do what they’re supposed to do and never get recognized,” Buechlein said.

Buechlein started his programming almost by accident shortly after arriving at JHS for the 2012-2013 school year. He’d collected some wristbands from his weightlifting gym that said “Strong(er)” and gave them to a handful of student leaders he knew. Pretty soon, other students wanted them.

“You would have students come in here and ask, ‘What do you have to do to get one of those?” said Deb Schum, JHS officer manager.



The two decided to make the bands a reward for going above and beyond in the classroom, as interpreted by teachers. Any teacher can suggest a student for the reward, and the student is called to the office without knowing why. Although the students find out they were called down for the Above and Beyond program, they never find out who suggested them.

Greater Jasper resource officer Jason Knies, left, ate lunch with Jasper sophomore Noah Heim, center, and junior Claire Schotanus on Friday at Los Bravos in Jasper.

Buechlein quickly ran out of Strong(er) bands and ordered about a thousand more, only the new bands say “Ad astra per aspera,” a Latin phrase that means “through hard work to the stars.” He’s almost out of those, too. For the 2015-2016 school year, he’s ordered T-shirts that say “Above and Beyond” on the back.

“It serves two purposes,” Buechlein said. “It shows those kids that they are noticed and gives them a pat on the back, and it lets us see some kids in the office we wouldn’t normally see.”

Above and Beyond students are automatically entered in the drawing for Law and Let’s Order.

“We trialed (Law and Let’s Order) last year, and it went over well,” said Knies. “The kids seem to like it.”

Buechlein figures the students like Law and Let’s Order because they get to hang out with Knies.

“The kids love (Knies),” Buechlein said. “They like and respect him.”

The first two students to win Law and Let’s Order this year were junior Claire Schotanus and sophomore Noah Heim. They had lunch at Los Bravos on Friday. Schotanus had no idea she’d won when she was called to the office to hear the news.

“I came in and Mr. Buechlein, a lady and the officer were sitting there,” Schotanus said. “I was just like, ‘What?’ They were like, ‘Oh no, this is a good thing.”

Through a program called Caring Cats, students can also be nominated for a shopping spree at Carson’s clothing store in Jasper. To get into that drawing, students must show improvement academically or socially; any student can qualify. The idea behind the program is to build connections throughout the school and boost students’ confidence.

“You might have a varsity athlete and a freshman that hugs the wall when they walk down the hall,” Buechlein said. “The hope is now they’re walking down the hall and say, ‘Hey, how are you doing?’”

Carson’s agreed to offer discounted prices to Caring Cats, and in three years the program has spent about $8,800 on 60 students.

“We had one (senior) boy who wanted a suit,” Schum said. “He was graduating and knew he’d have college and job interviews, so he got a suit.”

The Caring Cats program goes beyond rewarding students for good work; it also helps students in need of immediate help or support. Earlier this year, a Jasper High School family’s home caught fire, and the school raised money through the Caring Cats program to help with the purchase of new clothes. The program has also helped seniors purchase graduation gowns and other students purchase school supplies or lunch during difficult times. Once, the program helped a student repair his vehicle so he could continue working to help support his family.

“In providing this service, our goal is for students to be able to worry about the big picture, that is, getting an education and graduating,” Buechlein said. “The general public often is not aware of the baggage some students bring to school. Our program helps students feel better about themselves while also enabling students to realize that people around here do notice them and sincerely care about them.”

The funding for all the programs comes from fundraising or volunteering. The first year, teachers volunteered to sell food at during an auction at the Hutson John Deere dealership in Ireland. In the three years since, teachers and the community have donated roughly $12,000 to the programs.

Although the ideas come from Buechlein, he’ll never take credit. He says it’s a team effort among everyone in the office, the school board and the community. The ideas come from something he’s read or seen done elsewhere.

“I don’t think any of it is original,” Buechlein said. “I steal it, I think.”

At the end of the day, Buechlein notes, the programs - and education in general - are all about forming relationships.

“Hopefully you can build some positive ones,” he said.

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Source: The Herald, https://bit.ly/1OmwKyy

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Information from: The Herald, https://www.dcherald.com

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