Where’s Bill? Follow PVF’s Executive Director, Bill Somerville, out of the office, for site visits and meetings with outstanding grassroots leaders.
This week, I went to Sequoia High School in Redwood City (the oldest high school in Northern California) and I met with Bonnie Hansen, the Principal.
A year ago I met with her and she told me about a group of freshmen students who attacked another student on campus and almost killed him. Bonnie was distraught. We talked. She wanted to tackle this head on and had the idea of a six week summer program using students from her leadership class to work with the incoming freshmen. On the spot we said that PVF would fund the program.
Bonnie contacted the principals of middle schools feeding into Sequoia High School and she asked for the names of the worst students, the ones who probably wouldn’t make it in high school. She got 25 names and they were the students enrolled into the summer program, even if the school personnel had to go to the student’s homes and pick them up.
In addition to mentoring by older leadership class students, the program included a rafting trip down the North fork of the American River, dirt biking, and other adventures. It worked. The kids were turned on and now Bonnie was able to work with them.
Back to my visit to the high school the other day: Bonnie arranged for five of the students from the summer program to meet with me, one at a time. Introducing the first student, Bonnie said “this guy was the worst and no one thought he would make it. Now he is excelling. We are proud of him and he will be a leader for the freshmen group next summer.” The kid beamed and admitted that he had expected to be expelled this year “for doing something stupid.” Same story with the other four students. Very impressive: in one year Bonnie has broken the cycle of gang behavior at the school and now the other high schools want to try the summer program.
It worked because of Bonnie Hansen, a great principle, and this is what grassroots philosophy is about: Find outstanding people and fund them. Do you know such outstanding people?