At RCHS, connection is spelled P-R-I-D-E 

PRIDE offerings

Here are the 25 current PRIDE club offerings at RCHS, along with the faculty member(s) sponsoring each:

Book Club — Sandra Gillingham
Chess Club — Mark Ramey
Creative Writing — Darlene Mathieson
ESPN Instant Replay — Brandon Burley
Get Psyched — Justin Maffei
Junior Classical League — James Sharpe
Puzzles — Eric Doyle
Just Dance — Autumn Aceto and Jennifer Rosen
Magic — Karen Sanborn
Skateboarding — Jennifer Jobber and Dave Roberts
The Improv Club — Russell Paulette and James Rinella
Trading Cards Club — Lisa Jones and Valerie Newman
Trivia Club — Dave Naser
Walk this Way — Sheila Lamb and Nanette Hogan
First Responders — Patti Waddell and Beth Gall
Grub Club — Kurt Streu
Ultimate Frisbee — Alex Coffroth and Jason Guira
Time Machine — Eva Payne
Art Attack — Joy Sours
Coloring Club — Scott Stephens
Gamers — Steve Hrabak
Old School Games — Sallie Shackleford
All About Sports — Jackie Tederick
Wood Turning — Scott Schlosser
Wildlife Carving Club — Rich Hogan

Rappahannock County High School has deployed a new program this fall that is not designed to raise math and reading test scores, at least not directly. It is meant to ensure every student feels connected — both to a teacher and to fellow students with similar interests.

The 25 clubs comprising RCHS’ new Positive Relationships Inspire a Drive for Excellence (PRIDE) program this year are the brainchild of high school counselor Dani Pond, who said she came up with the idea shortly after the horrific school shooting in Newtown, Conn. While searching for a common denominator among similar tragedies, Pond said she found most of the shooters claimed to have felt alone and isolated from their peers.

“I just wondered, how can we prevent someone from feeling alone?” Pond said. “Wouldn’t it be great if every student could belong to a club and be around their peers who share similar interests? That way they could all say, ‘At least I belong to this.’ ”

Pond said she did some digging and found that only 28 percent of the high school’s 375 students were enrolled in after-school offerings (such as sports teams or the National Honor Society) — and of those, many of the same students were enrolled in multiple clubs.

That’s when Pond said she got the idea that every faculty member could sponsor a club — either from a personal passion or hobby, or something students had requested. Most important, she said, the clubs would meet during school hours — which eliminated the need for after-school transportation, which Pond said has always posed a problem.

She brought the idea to high school principal Mike Tupper last year, Pond said, and then to the teachers at a faculty meeting. The response, she said, has been overwhelmingly positive.

Students wait their turn to sign up for PRIDE Clubs early in August. Photo by Matt Wingfield.
Students wait their turn to sign up for PRIDE Clubs early in August. Photo by Matt Wingfield.

“The kids really love it and the teachers say they’re enjoying it,” Pond said. “They’re getting to interact with kids they might never have [in class] and getting to share their passions. I haven’t heard one complaint!”

“The PRIDE Clubs have been a big hit!” agreed Tupper. “I am so pleased with how well my faculty has stepped up to provide fun things for our kids to do. It gives our students the opportunity to build positive relationships with their peers and adults, and I look forward to it continuing to get better and better.”

Each club has up to 15 members, Pond said, though faculty members are also welcome to pair up for a similar interest and mentor up to 30 students. “It’s wonderful to see them building connections with each other and the faculty,” Pond said, noting that’s it’s especially important for the students to “make a new adult connection.”

“It’s also interesting to see what they sign up for,” Pond added. “I think they’ve done an excellent job of choosing clubs that interest them, rather than just choosing what their friends picked.”

The clubs also help ease the way for new students, Pond said. After signing up for classes, Pond said she presents new students with the list of clubs, allowing them to instantly connect with students with similar interests. “Now new students automatically belong to something,” said a smiling Pond.

Seth Wayland and Cody Dodson of the Sperryville Volunteer Fire Department demonstrate extrication equipment to the First Responders’ Club.Courtesy photo
Seth Wayland and Cody Dodson of the Sperryville Volunteer Fire Department demonstrate extrication equipment to the First Responders’ Club.

One popular PRIDE club is the First Responders’ Club, sponsored by Patti Waddell and Beth Gall. The club is geared toward students who are interested in training and volunteering for local rescue squads and fire departments.

The club has 10 members, Waddell said: Stuart Bailey, Courtney Dodson, Natalie Gorham, Brandon Jenkins, Gary Jenkins, Taylor Johnson, Alice Maley, Stephanie Nicholson, Jacob Pullen and Alyssa Rogers.

RCHS graduates Cody Dodson and Seth Wayland, both of whom volunteer for the Sperryville Volunteer Fire Department, presented at the club’s first meeting Sept. 19.

Though her initial idea was to have the clubs meet twice a month, Pond said she settled on a single monthly meeting with an expanded time period. At the faculty’s request, clubs now meet for an hour at a time, allowing them to delve more deeply into their chosen subject matter.

One of her favorite moments, Pond said, came during a pilot program last year when she was making her rounds to check in with the clubs. Pond said she saw a senior playing chess with a ninth-grader, and later asked the student about it.

“He said, ‘I just met so-and-so and never knew he was such a cool kid.’ And I was so proud, because that’s exactly what I wanted to see!”