A few years ago a student at Nimitz Junior High School in Huntington Park could get a bad reputation by just carrying a book or doing his homework assignment. They would call him "schoolboy."
In those days there were only 200 students on the honor roll.
Now it is different. Seven hundred of the school's 3,000 students are in the honor society and many of them are carrying their books with pride.
The dramatic change is the result of the Adopt-a-Student program developed by computer literacy teachers Terry Pearson and Claudia Dunn.
Funds for Activities
Teachers, staff, businessmen and civic groups adopt students who have at least a 3.0 grade average. It costs $2 to adopt a student and the money raised, about $2,500 a year, goes to activities aimed at motivating young people to study.
The better students are invited to participate in extracurricular activities on and off campus. They have cookouts and attend special luncheons and are given cards acknowledging their levels of academic achievement.
The cards identify students with grade-point averages of 3.5 or better as admirals; those between 3.0 and 3.4 are captains. And these students are allowed to leave class five minutes before the bell to beat the lunch crowd to the cafeteria. Recently several hundred honor students were treated to a trip to Hollywood to watch the taping of "People's Court."
A Pat on the Back
The idea of the program, according to Pearson, is to single out those students who work and reward them.
"There is a better feeling about getting good grades," Pearson said.
"We felt the good kids need a pat on the back. The counseling office and dean's office was always full of troublemakers. Good kids came to school every day . . . but there wasn't enough attention paid to them. They needed to know that the teachers cared," Pearson said.
"Never before did I feel I had students who were interested in being good students. Now kids will come to me with their report cards," Dunn said. They are asking if their grades are good enough to make them eligible for the program, she said.
Students in the scholarship society are also enthusiastic.
"It's just mainly doing your work. It is not really hard, you just have to keep up," said Norma Copado, 14, an admiral.
"I am trying to get my brother in the society. He's smart, (but) he just likes to goof around," Alfredo Rocha said. He is an admiral in the eighth grade.