CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The Education Alliance is asking students at Mary C. Snow West Side Elementary School to show their "swag" by achieving the goals of the new Students With Awesome Goals program.
Founded 30 years ago, the alliance helped connect businesses to schools but now focuses on increasing student success by offering a variety of mentoring programs.
"The SWAG program is another new initiative we started this year," explained Emily Schoen, director of strategic relationships and corporate communications for the alliance.
Schoen said the SWAG program could be very beneficial because it focuses on elementary students.
"It's early intervention," she said. "The longer you wait, the more of a chance you have that that students are not going to be able to be caught and brought back into doing well in their school."
The West Side school kicked off the pilot project in January under the supervision of Brian Williams, an AmeriCorps VISTA member.
Members of VISTA, or Volunteers in Service to America, make a commitment to serve full-time for one year at a nonprofit or local government agency. During that time they work to combat illiteracy, improve health services, generate businesses, and bolster community groups, among other things.
Williams came up with the idea for the SWAG program while working on a project to develop a coloring book.
"I was just brainstorming on a theme to develop the coloring book around, and the Lord just put that in my spirit; SWAG, students with awesome goals," Williams recalled.
Drawing from popular culture, the SWAG concept is putting a positive spin on a word children hear daily on the radio and on television. But in the school setting, good behavior, good grades and attendance are "swag."
Students in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade were given wristbands that say "SWAG," and Williams said he hears kids in the hallways talking about how they have "swag."
Schoen said the program has been well-received by students and teachers.