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Studies indicate that students who show just one of three signs—poor attendance, disruptive behavior and course failure in math and English—by sixth grade only have a 25 percent chance of graduating from high school on time. In 28 cities throughout the nation, City Year AmeriCorps members work one-on-one with students who display these signs, helping students get back on track to graduating from high school. 

But how do City Year AmeriCorps members actually reach students who are showing these signs, particularly disruptive behavior? Current City Year Milwaukee AmeriCorps member Aven Presberry describes how he provides positive behavior support in the classroom at the Alexander Mitchell Integrated Arts School.

City Year AmeriCorps member Aven Presberry works with his students to implement and ecourage positive behaviorBy: Aven Presberry, City Year Milwaukee ‘17

I currently serve at the Alexander Mitchell Integrated Arts School in an amazing 8th grade classroom with some of the most enthusiastic students. One of my favorite parts about being a City Year AmeriCorps member is the close connections I build with my students every day. The trust and communication I have with them is truly remarkable.

Every day, I support students in math and reading. The key is to make sure that I fully support them and provide them with effective tutoring by ensuring they are focused and ready to learn. Whether they have something going on inside or outside the classroom, my students know that I am there for them through the relationships we have forged. Even when my students are having a rough day, they know that I am extremely understanding, and we can talk through anything. Communication is a very important part of providing positive behavior support in the classroom.

Another way I implement positive behavior support is through participating in the Talons program at my school. Talons is a school-wide program created to provide students who are struggling with their behavior in the classroom with extra support. School staff members partner with a student who they normally would not otherwise encounter. Every morning, staff members check in with their students and set a goal for the day. At the end of the day, they reconnect and assess how the students’ day went and are rated on a scale of 1-3. Once a student reaches the required rating, they graduate out of the program. This program has taught me valuable skills and tools to use to motivate my students, set goals, and work as a team.

Relationship building and fostering a sense of belief in oneself are two of the most common strategies I use to support my students’ behavior in the classroom. For example, at the beginning of the year, one of my students was struggling and his behavior in the classroom was difficult to handle; he would rarely go to class. I finally caught up with him, and I started opening up about myself. I let him know this wasn’t how our year together was going to go. He began expressing that he wasn’t planning on attending high school. He had lost all belief in himself, and he did not think he had any support. I told him I believed in him and that we would get through this year and make it to high school together.

Since that day, he has remained focused on completing his work and attending class. Every time I look his way, he is working hard and participating in class. He has humbled me and made me realize how so much can happen in such a short amount of time and that all students have so much potential.

Our youth need this love, support and encouragement. As the end of the year is just around the corner, it is bittersweet because I will miss my students. But, I am happy to know they are moving on to high school and growing into amazing young people. 


This blog is part seven of our monthly series, "What Do AmeriCorps Members Do?" What else does the City Year AmeriCorps role involve? Read to learn more:

Part Eight: Run Afterschool Programs 
Part Six: Address Student Absenteeism in Schools
Part Five: Utilize Data to Meet Student Needs
Part Four: Build Relationships to Help Students Succeed
Part Three: Track Student Progress Using Data
Part Two: Own Unique Responsibilities as Coordinators
Part One: Tutoring and Teamwork

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