Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Elementary is being proactive about teaching students how to think differently by adopting a new behavioral development program.
The Stop Now and Plan program (SNAP) teaches children to stop and think before they act, and it helps them stay in school and out of trouble, said Heather DiGiacomo, the deputy director of communications at the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ). SNAP is a preventative model that intervenes before kids enter the juvenile justice system.
“In conversation with stakeholders in the Gainesville community, there has been mention of issues with younger children and the need for services that reach those younger ages,” DiGiacomo said.
Rawlings Elementary is implementing SNAP as a small group counseling program, focusing on boys ages 9 through 11 and their families. The 12-week program was scheduled to begin March 17, but will now start in early April.
Shannon Pettit, the school counselor at Rawlings, explained that the program will “help boys develop self-control, control anger and frustration, and stand up for themselves without getting in trouble,” in the school’s monthly newsletter.
Apart from lessons, the program will include parent engagement. DiGiacomo said she hopes the program empowers parents in reinforcing the skills being learned.
“We want to provide students and their families with another tool to help them overcome challenges to be successful in school and in life,” Pettit said.
Four families have already signed up to participate in SNAP and are excited to begin the program, Pettit said.
SNAP is spearheaded by the staff at the Child Development Institute in Toronto, Canada. The group held training in Tallahassee, Fla., in February for four days, but the Gainesville team had additional training before sessions began.
Patrick Fargason, the marketing specialist at the DJJ, said that SNAP is also being piloted in Leon and Hillsborough Counties.
Fargason said the other two counties follow the same curriculum, but their SNAP programs do not necessarily take place at a designated school. Their SNAP panels include a school counselor, school resource officer, juvenile probation officer and a counselor from the Florida Network of Youth and Family Services.
In Alachua County, Rawlings Elementary and the DJJ teamed up with the Gainesville Police Department and the CDS Family and Behavioral Health Services.
Pettit said she is excited to start the program at Rawlings because it will provide another counseling group for students. She said it is also an opportunity to promote the school district’s mission of success for every student.
DiGiacomo said she thinks SNAP will provide another tool for schools, the DJJ and law enforcement to help keep students on the right path.
“Education is a key factor, if not the most important protective factor in keeping children out of the juvenile justice system,” DiGiacomo said.