PREVENTION: How It’s Seen at the Promise Academy, Mark Schroeder

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– Excerpts from an interview with Mark Schroeder, Educational Assistant (February 18, 2015)

DAN: Mark, let’s talk a little bit about prevention. It’s one of the foundational fibers of Quakerdale. What does it mean? What are some examples you can give us of why prevention is important?

Mark: Maybe school wasn’t the best thing for a student. They had struggles in school. It could have been socially, or with a specific subject like math. They struggled to the point where they became scared to death to show up for school or their math class. So now the student won’t open up. That’s easy to see in here because with the programs we use I can tell exactly how many minutes somebody’s in something. I can see how many assignments they do. Our dorm leader does a wonderful job of pacing the work load. So we can follow right along. I think it’s easy now to see as soon as somebody’s collapsing. When that happens we ask, “Okay, what can we do? How can we step in?” Because if they keep adding on to failures, all of a sudden they just shut down. And we don’t want that to happen.

Sometimes we are able to use volunteers to help with our work load. For example, Christine is a math major. I can rely on her to help when we get so deep into a geometry problem that it’s going to take me a couple of days working on a solution. While she’s doing that, I can get right back to the student and we keep going.

I think that the hardest thing for students is when things are going well and moving right along, and then they hit a wall. What’s the easiest thing for them to do? Just put it away and shutdown. We want to keep them going. That’s what helps get them to the end of the semester, and to keep the good grades going. Then they see the results:

I had a conversation with a student:

STUDENT: “I never got C’s before.”

I asked:   “Is that good or bad?”

STUDENT: “No, you don’t understand, I’ve never gotten good grades before.”

I was able to say  “Okay, that’s great. Now let’s go for B’s.”

Now we can add on to successes instead of just dealing with issues and problems.

I think this helps all the way around. I think it helps at home. I think it helps with something as simple as when an issue arises at supper. How do we deal with it? Instead of falling back, they move forward. Let’s look at the positives. It sounds simple. And sometimes it is. But sometimes it’s a big challenge, and it takes all of us to help. That’s where I enjoy this more than anything. Because I could just sit here and just push them through. That’s easy to do. But I don’t. I want to make sure they know the process.

For example, I asked a student:

“Did you just look that up online? Let’s ask a couple more questions?”

STUDENT: “Oh, okay, yeah.”

Or another situation:

STUDENT: “This is a science experiment I did.”

I try to say, “Well, what would happen if we change this, or this, or this?”

So now we’re adding to, instead of just letting them coast along. We try to look at the past, identify some of the mistakes, and build on how we can fix it before they graduate and leave here. That’s what my goal is, just to build better men, to get them out of the rut they were in.

If we talk about the cattle program, here’s an example of the type of conversation we might have with them when we first started working with the cattle:

STUDENT: “Oh, I’ve worked with cattle forever. I’ve done this forever.”

I say:  “Okay, well, I’m going to tell you right now, the old sign on the wall says, ‘can you run faster than the 15, because the mama cow runs 16.’ So don’t go running.”

We talk about different things. We talk about how important it is to know the setting. Why is this one doing this? Is there something wrong? What can we do to help?

We were working the cattle one day and we couldn’t get one into the chute; just couldn’t do it. We found out that on the corner post where we were trying to get them to go, someone had taken their gloves off and sat them up on top of the post. Every time the cow came around the corner, that’s the first thing she saw and it startled her. My concern was I don’t want the boys getting hurt. As soon as we found the gloves, and took them down, she walked right in. So it’s teaching them something simple.

But yet if we don’t do it right it could lead to a big mistake and somebody getting hurt. We want good experiences. And that’s how I look at a lot of things. What can we do when we have a bad experience to learn from it? What did we do that we could have done just a little bit different?

And in the classroom, that’s big. That’s really big. A student turned in their assignment and didn’t really hit anything. So instead of giving them a zero, we talk about it. Did you not understand the question? It could be,

STUDENT: “Well I was frustrated because I couldn’t find it. So I just decided this is good enough and turned it in.”

“Well, okay. I get there too. But, let’s look at it this way. How could we reword the question to find what we need?”

STUDENT: “Oh, okay.”

So, am I a normal teacher? Some days yes. Am I far from normal some days? Yes. But it’s just to get out of the kids what I know is there. I know that it’s there, because I can see it. Sometimes they’ll come in and give me this big tough guy image that they don’t need school. I just nod my head and we get to work.

DAN: Mark, thanks so much for your time. And thank you for all that you’re doing for these kids. Most of the rewards for your work you’ll probably never see. We’ve got to trust that God will use them down the line. But I do think it’s rewarding to be a part of something where you’re making a difference in people’s lives.


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PREVENTION: How It’s Seen at the Promise Academy, Larry Ketcham

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– Excerpts from an interview with Larry Ketcham, Administrator (February 18, 2015)

 DAN: Larry, let’s talk a little bit about prevention. It’s one of the foundational fibers of Quakerdale. What does it mean? What are some examples you can give us of why prevention is important?

LARRY: Prevention. When you’re dealing with the Promise Academy, and all the various programs within the Promise Academy, we see students who have experienced things, made choices prior to coming to us that probably could have been prevented. We spend a lot of time talking about, “If this had only been done differently.” In certain situations, some of our student’s family situations are not where we would like them to be, or were not conducive to making some good choices. But, with that said, the students still have free will and could have done better choosing how they reacted.

Within basketball, we see students who want to play Division 1 basketball and need to get through the NCAA clearing house. What they didn’t realize is that their choice of how they handled their academic life prior to coming to us has precluded them from ever doing that. They’re not going to get through the clearing house. They’re never going to play Division 1 ball.

At our other campus, while it’s not set up to be a place for students to go who have had issues with public school, it is true that the majority we have there have had issues at public schools. We start looking at what those issues are and we try to figure out how many of those things were preventable, asking, “What does that look like?” Many of them were preventable. Parenting, we see a lot of issues where parenting training probably would have helped tremendously.

What we try to do here in the Promise Academy, in all the programs, is to figure out as best as we can, the underlying causes as to, why they had trouble in school, why there are family issues, why college coaches didn’t like the player, etcetera. Then we try to give the student something concrete to work on so they do not repeat the same problem. So, once they’re to us, prevention becomes, “I’m going to learn from my mistakes and I’m not going to repeat them again.” For Quakerdale as a whole, the focus has been shifting towards prevention. If we can catch some of these things earlier within these families, or within the school systems, Quakerdale would not be needed. Truth is, we’ll always be needed because those things are going to continue.

Prevention for me and for these programs is a lofty goal. There are other parts of Quakerdale, however, that are geared toward preventing the need for the Promise Academy programs. Prevention in our minds and within our program means that those who do not study the path that leads to struggles are destined to repeat it. So we’re going to focus on prior mistakes and look at what should have happened and how it could have been prevented. If you can figure out how you could have prevented it beforehand, it will help you prevent doing those same things going forward.

DAN: As students look toward the future, some of them may be going into trade school, some of them into business, some in college, and some of them athletics. How do you incorporate the ideas of prevention as it pertains to the future now? Are there some skills, some things they can potentially learn or do to catch themselves beforehand?

LARRY: There are. This is going to sound almost over simplistic but sometimes it is super simple. We break it down to where it’s a re-training kind of thing. We focus quite extensively on schedules and adhering to them. You need to get up. You need to do these things. You need to come to this group at this time. You need to do these items during the day. You need to go to lunch at this time. Then you need to do this activity after that. And then you go back to the cottage. Or for the basketball team, they go to practice and then after that they have to do this and they have to do that.

As we spend time talking with them about the past, once you start identifying some of the things that were missing previously, most of them are very simplistic things that somehow fell through the cracks. They did not attend school regularly. They did not know the difference between sick and can, and sick and can’t. For example, my children were taught pretty early that if you’re really sick and can’t go to school, then you sure can’t watch television. You’re just too sick. You’re too sick for video games. You stay in bed. You get well. Amazingly, it doesn’t take long before kids realize that, “I probably could go to school and make it through.”

That’s where we start. And for our long-term students here on the New Providence campus, it’s an ongoing thing, there’s no rush. But for the basketball team, we only have twenty-six weeks. So, it’s pretty intense. And they resist. But we have to keep reminding them throughout that this is to keep you from having trouble down the line, this is the prevention part. We tell them that we’ve already got students out there who are living this. Some of them are making good choices. Some are re-living prior mistakes. Let’s not do that.

We encourage our basketball players as they are taking college classes to contact their instructors almost weekly by email, by phone call, whatever. Establish a relationship with that instructor, which is something they never did at the high school level. And they are finding that, low and behold, if you establish a relationship with those people who are over you, supervising you in one way or another, things happen. You do better. They treat you better, and things progress better.

We push them to come together as a group by working together in group projects. The boys here work together at group projects. Sometimes we mix the basketball players with the classroom boys and we do projects together. Planting trees they work side-by-side. We see prevention at work in team issues. When you get into a situation and you just can’t make it, a team is a nice thing to be a part of. Some of our students are not used to working with people. They don’t know how to do that. They see themselves as a loner. There really is no room for loners within this program.

Many of them have no respect for authority figures. So we spend specific time teaching them that you have to be respectful and listen to those immediately supervising you and any adult that you come in contact with. That is something that is pressed hard and surprisingly is very hard to get them to do. They’re willing to engage their immediate supervisor whether it’s a teacher or the coach. But when you ask them to respond to someone else, that’s a struggle, that’s a real struggle. We see this as part of what they have done in the past because their circle of influence was so small, and limited to immediate friends and peer groups. They were like a branch in the wind, swayed back and forth.

We talk about live and die as a team. Not everyone would be fans of some of the techniques that we use, but by the same token, we’re trying to help them understand that there are very few individuals that do well within a team environment. If you choose to be an individual the whole team suffers. For the basketball team, practice sometimes can be quite rigorous when someone decides to play all by themselves and not be a part of the team.

Those are the kinds of things that we specifically do to incorporate prevention. For us, over the course of time, to see the same behaviors repeated over and over again says they’re not going to be successful. In those instances we do create things on the fly. When something comes up out of the clear blue sky, we will come together quickly and see if we cannot come up with a way to get through to them. Because sometimes just talking to them and saying that they’re headed down the same path again is like talking to a tree; they just don’t get it. So you have to be somewhat creative at times to show those things to them and let them experience it.

DAN: One last thing. If I were a parent out there and I had a student between, I think you said between 6th grade and a senior, or an athlete that was looking to maximize his potential for scholarship money through basketball, how would they best contact you? How should they get a hold of you?

LARRY: If it’s basketball, our website is QuakerdaleAthletics.org and it’s got information and there’s a registration form. You can also call Quakerdale itself and you can ask for Dwayne Melton, the coach. And if you need the Promise Academy you can contact me at Quakerdale’s number, 641-497-5294. Extension 1285 will get you directly to my office.


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PREVENTION: How It’s Seen at Van Orman House

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android-chrome-192x192– Excerpts from an interview with Randy Edgar, Director

DAN: We’re on the phone this morning with Randy Edgar, Director of Van Orman House. We’re going to continue our conversation across Quakerdale about prevention. Quakerdale has identified three foundational fibers that we try to incorporate in all of our ministries agency wide. One is prevention, the other one’s education, and the final one is support. And so this morning we’re going to visit with Randy a little bit and talk about how prevention is an important component at Van Orman. So, Randy, welcome. Glad to have you here this morning.

RANDY: Thank you.

DAN: Randy, as you take a look at working with women who want to build a new life, what role does prevention play? What are some things that you have seen in these ladies lives that highlight how important it is to incorporate prevention at Van Orman?

RANDY: Most of the women that we’re dealing with, the biggest simple thing we found in each one of them is the lack of self esteem. I am trying to train and put self worth back in them, importance back in them, and to get them to believe they can achieve. In the different classes, in watching them progress through those courses, if they run the course, I love watching them little-by-little get faith as different accomplishments happen. Their faces say, “Yeah, I can do that. Yeah, I can do that!” So I think the loss of self esteem is a huge thing to prevent. I don’t know if you’d call it an illness or what I would call it, Dan, but most of the women have been beat down; beat down and left for nothing. They don’t think they’re worth anything.

DAN: So prevention plays a big role in making sure that they don’t have the wrong view of themselves, and don’t look at themselves too lowly, and don’t allow themselves to get into situations where they could be abused or taken advantage of because of poor self esteem?

RANDY: Right. Society’s not necessarily agreeing with what I’m trying to teach them. Society is teaching them that they’re not going to be worth anything. Choosing the right type of people to be around and have in their lives is very important. When you choose the wrong groups to run with, and that’s all you know all your life, and that’s who your family’s always running with, and maybe your family’s not the greatest group either, you don’t know any different. And that’s the type of people they just seem to cling to and hang with. They need to try to break that curse or chain, but trying to break that generational thing, They’ve been brought up this way from generation, to generation, to generation, and it’s got to take Jesus, because we cannot do it on our own. So that’s where we start; getting them to believe in Jesus, and then to believe in themselves.

DAN: So, give us a little idea of how you use prevention to help build good and healthy habits. How does that work?

RANDY: The people that we get have been interviewed. Through the interview process when they come in, and it is pretty extensive, I want to hear that they want change. I don’t want them just to think that this a shelter. I explain to them what the program’s going to be and how intensive it’s going to be so they are not surprised when they get there. The way we’re going about it is by education. I try to keep their minds off to much thinking, and to keep their minds filled with Christ-like thoughts. We have a very structured schedule of classes: Bible study, topical classes with homework, they have Bible reading classes, they have nighttime Bible study classes, they have online college courses, and we try to get them their GED if they don’t have it.

We also get them into what kind of career they want. A lot of the girls already have their GEDs, they just never got any further. Either they had children along the way and now they’re tied down to that house. Or maybe it’s an abusive husband, or maybe an addiction that’s got in the way. We encourage them and we get them hooked up with Iowa State Extension. Sometimes we get them hooked up with continued education here in town. We actually get them out to the college. There’s grant money available for them to go to college. We also do online classes right from here. You see the smiles on their faces when they start making some of those accomplishments. Because up to that time, it had just been dreams and talks that they never thought could happen.

So trying to keep them occupied and their minds occupied is very important. The longer they sit around they can fall back into that old mindset of worthlessness. And the first time something bad happens, that devil throws something bad at them, they want to give up and run and do the same reaction as they always have. Teaching them how to handle every one of life’s situations through Biblical answers is a key for us. We stay focused on that. And that’s why it’s important to have the Christian ladies there all the time that work with them, whether they be volunteers, or a resident assistant. Having somebody there that these young ladies can go to when they want to talk. And after they get to trust a little bit, they do. I think the key is to keep them loaded down with good work towards their next right steps.

DAN: Well, Randy, thank you so much. I appreciate not only you, but also the ministry of Van Orman. And we are excited to see what the Lord’s going to do to continue to help these women build great lives, not only for themselves, but also for their family and their children.

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