- Associated Press - Friday, January 15, 2016

MISHAWAKA, Ind. (AP) - There’s a room in Grissom Middle School where books, paper and pencils have given way to video games, air hockey and pop-a-shot.

There are board games and bean bag chairs. Refrigerators stocked with water, juice and fruit. Music from Radio Disney.

Welcome to Club Honors, where Principal Nathan Boyd will happily grant membership on one condition: achieve honor roll status by maintaining at least a 3.0 grade-point average.

Of Penn-Harris-Madison School Corp.’s three middle schools, Discovery, Schmucker and Grissom, more students face challenges to academic success at Grissom, whose boundaries include several apartment complexes and areas with lower household incomes than the Granger and Osceola subdivisions that feed the other two schools.

Grissom’s share of students eligible for free or reduced price lunches, 45 percent, more than doubles that of Discovery’s 21 percent and exceeds Schmucker’s 31 percent. About 57 percent of Grissom’s students passed the ISTEP-plus standardized test last school year, compared with about 85 percent at Discovery and 63 percent at Schmucker, according to the Indiana Department of Education.



Boyd, in his third year at Grissom after coming from South Bend’s LaSalle Intermediate Academy, thinks his students can do better. He said about 40 percent make honor roll, but he would like to increase that figure to at least 65 percent.

About 82 percent of Discovery students make honor roll, and 68 percent do so at Schmucker.

Boyd hopes the former classroom’s fun and games, in a high-traffic hallway around the corner from the cafeteria, will pique students’ interest as they walk by.

Everything in the room has come at no cost to the school. Sony donated four PlayStation 3 retail display units, the kind that kids try out in stores, worth $4,500 each.

Boyd used a $5,000 donation from Laidig Systems, a longtime P-H-M supporter, to buy an air hockey table, pop-a-shot, three flat-screen TVs, three Xbox units, controllers, the two mini-refrigerators, and tables and chairs.

Sam’s Club awarded a $2,000 grant, money Boyd plans to use as needs arise, such as replacing controllers or batteries.

He said he opened the club two weeks ago “to congratulate the kids who are always doing the right thing, following rules. I would like to pat them on the back more often and tell them how they are appreciated. We talk about teachers in the building, and they are just as much of an influence on their peers as any of the adult educators in the building.”

Students must sign up in advance to be in the room, with up to 25 students allowed at a time, and can reserve up to two slots per week. They can come before school or during lunch but not after school because Boyd doesn’t want it to compete with after-school tutoring.

To give them time to use the room during lunch, members are served before other students in the cafeteria by flashing their Club Honors card, and come into the room after they’ve eaten for the remainder of their lunch half-hour. On Wednesday during lunch, there were 21 seventh-graders, including Nick Bevis, who said his grades are “fairly good” but an “A” he earned in language arts qualified him for the club.

“It’s interesting and it’s better than just hanging out at lunch,” he said while playing his friend, Takoda Stone, in an air hockey tournament they had planned earlier. “Two days a week is good. I don’t want to spend my whole life in here because it’s not every day that people come. Also not a lot of girls come here, so . don’t put that in the newspaper. My grandparents read the newspaper.”

For now, Boyd is doing a lot of the supervising, but on Monday he expects a newly hired lunch aide to take over that role. On Wednesday he had some voluntary help from social studies teacher Melanie Hackett while she was on lunch duty.

“It’s really fun because we can play too,” she said. “I think this is a great incentive. The kids love it and it keeps us all young too.”

She wasn’t surprised Boyd came up with the idea.

“He loves to celebrate our students,” she said. “He has always been student-focused and actually that was one of the reasons why, when I interviewed, I wanted to come to this building. Very innovative. He loves to hear our ideas. This isn’t new. This is definitely Mr. Boyd.”

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Source: South Bend Tribune, https://bit.ly/1RRadda

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Information from: South Bend Tribune, https://www.southbendtribune.com

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