Simple as ABC

It’s as simple as ABC.

A: Sign a contract. B: Perform as you have promised and C: Get paid for your efforts. Many consider that exchange of money for services one of the most basic of economic concepts and several community leaders and school officials in Westland have agreed to use that simple approach in an attempt to teach students the importance of education to their futures and to their control of their lives.

“We just want them to succeed. We want them to understand that they are in charge of their futures and that if they work, do what they agree to do, they will be rewarded,” explained Glenn Shaw, a local business leader and founder of The Westland Community Foundation.

The new plan, Champions of John Glenn, is similar to a successful program in place at Wayne Memorial High School, also in the Wayne-Westland Community Schools District. The program offers high school students the opportunity to choose a “mentor” from the teaching staff at the school, sign a contract to improve one or more of their grades and work toward that goal. The John Glenn program differs in that students who achieve their goals will receive a $200 check.

School Psychologist Louis Przbylski said, more than 90 percent of the teachers at John Glenn have volunteered to participate in the program. He, along with Assistant Principal Kim Ciesynski will coordinate the program at the school.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to help increase students’ academic motivation,” Przbylski said. “This is a great opportunity for students to work with a mentor. While the substantial external reward is what captures students’ initial interest, this will get entry into better academic performance.”

Przbylski and Ciesynski will meet with the students to ensure they have set adequate goals, Przbylski said.  He estimated that there could be 450-500 students who sign onto the program.

“We want to reach all the kids, not just those who are already performing. The goals may be as simple as increasing a grade from a D to a C or a B to a B plus. Our goal is for each of them to increase by one-half a grade point,” Shaw explained, “we just want to show them what they can do and that hard work pays off.”

Organizers aren’t kidding about that payoff. Each student who meets his or her goal will receive a $200 check, no strings attached, other than the completion of the agreed-upon goals, which are individual to each student. The students who achieve the highest percentage of GPA improvement will also be rewarded with a one-year scholarship to either Schoolcraft Community College or Wayne County Community College District. Each college has donated 10 one-year scholarships to the Champions program and five scholarships to each school will be awarded each of the first two semesters. Parents must also sign the contract and agree to help and encourage the teens achieve their goals.

“We have been fortunate in the help we are receiving from many local businesses with the program,” Shaw said. “These are people who understand that these kids have to grasp the importance of education to their futures. Many of them will be the business people, the employees, the real backbone of our community in the next decades.”

The program will include a dinner in February which all students who sign onto the program can attend, at no cost, and where those who have achieved their goals will receive their checks.

“We’re hoping to get some pretty impressive dinner speakers to help continue to motivate the kids,” Shaw said.

He and his wife, Patty, have committed $50,000 to the program and the Westland Community Foundation has pledged $6,000 to help fund the new Champions of John Glenn Program, along with several other donors, including the colleges.

“The fact that an outside businessman would take this kind of an interest in John Glenn High School is remarkable,” Przbylski said. “This has created a very positive academic vibe around the school.”