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Lighthouse program puts positive RAP on learning

A group of Lighthouse College Prep Academy students are are serving as mentors through a community-building program called Restorative Approach and Practices.

“We started with our eighth-graders at Lighthouse College Prep Academy and just recently started with the Lighthouse Primary Academy (grades K-2),” said LCPA director of School Culture Tyler Radtke. “We also plan to meet with Lighthouse Upper Academy (grades 3-7) and the Lighthouse Charter East Chicago (grades K-7) to help grow the younger students’ sense of community and relationship building.”

Eighteen high school students are part of the RAPS team, with four of them dispatched weekly to reach out to students, as well as working with each school collaborating with teachers and peers on school improvement, promoting positive role models, violence awareness messages, and improving restorative approach practices at each school.

The RAPS visits also will help younger students understand and adjust when they get to the high school, according to Radtke.

The mission of RAPS is to demonstrate a holistic way to help students build solid relationships with each other and staff members and to help them deal with discipline challenges.

Radtke developed the RAPS program based on research and his own personal philosophy. “Kicking students out of school doesn’t teach them anything,” he said. “We believe in second chances and the RAPS program is one way to address this.”

Indeed, many of the teachers involved with the mentors had nothing but positive comments.

“Some students find it hard to stay on task, ” said Lighthouse Primary Academy first-grade teacher Leslie Ainseol. “The mentors are a wonderful emotional support for them.”

Kindergarten teacher Antoinette Harmon agreed.

“I love this idea (of mentors),” she said. “They’re getting an idea of what it’s like to work with children, as well as observing the key essentials of the school environment.”

During this year’s pilot program, which began in September, the 18 high school students involved will visit the area Lighthouse schools weekly.

Teams of four students man the Friday visits, each one visiting a separate classroom. The pilot visits last fall took place with eighth graders at LCPA and currently are at the Lighthouse Primary Academy.

Assembling the team currently at LPA are LCPA students Brianna Robertson, Nikala McKinney, Talia Crouch and Tara Shorter.

“The first eighth-grade student I worked with wasn’t very receptive. It took a few days to put her at ease before she warmed up to me,” Shorter said. “I understand the eighth-grade code is ‘Just be real with me’ and that’s exactly what I did, as we talked about the fact that grades do matter.”

The18 current RAPS team members were chosen from a pool of 90 applicants after they submitted a personal essay and made it through an interview process, said Radtke.

“I love kids, that’s why I wanted to do this,” Crouch said. “I know it’s hard for them to listen to an adult. They can open up to someone closer to their own age.”

Crouch added that she plans to be a teacher, so the mentoring experience is giving her a chance to see what it’s like to work with children.

As for the mentors themselves, each of the four current team members visiting Lighthouse Primary Academy team felt that not only were they learning how it was to be on the other side of the instructor’s desk – they also were learning about the satisfaction they feel in the win-win situation of making a positive impression on the pupils.

There are many other benefits, Radtke added.

“This (program) is going to help our younger students, but the high school students also will learn and develop important social, life and leadership skills that will benefit them throughout their lives.”