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NK Success succeeding in Poulsbo

"POULSBO - Through effort, experimentation and hard work, the NK Success program has lived up to its name at North Kitsap High School. The program allows students to meet with adult mentors once a month at the high school. It began four years ago, and was meant as a way to link high schoolers with adult community members. When the program began, it was different than it is now. Teachers were required to participate, and meetings were held once every two weeks. After trial and error, some changes were introduced two years ago: teachers were no longer required to participate -although many chose to - and the meetings were held only once a month, but lasted longer. Now students meet for about an hour one Friday a month. They and their mentors talk about the present, what they're doing at school and how their classes are going; and the future, such as college plans or career goals. And a new wrinkle was added - now seniors act as mentors for sophomores. That's been a Godsend, said Mary Ann Harris. Harris began volunteering with the program in its second year (she has had children pass through NKHS) and has stayed ever since. The sophomores are helped by the program, she said. They're trying to negotiate school, find out what high school's like, Harris said. Harris said the effort of volunteers, working to fine-tune the program after its first two years, has made a great deal of difference. We worked extensively on rebuilding the program, she said. Among other changes, she said, was a built-in system where everyone involved - mentors, students and staff - evaluate the system. The program tries to improve four areas of life, Harris said: Academic success, communication, career development, and community service. The community service is emphasized, Harris said. One group of students gathered supplies for Stand Up For Kids, a Silverdale organization that helps homeless youth. One of the students involved with that effort was Katie Salmans, now a senior. We went around and collected stuff from Poulsbo businesses, she recalls. It helped me realize how fortunate I am to have a good family, good friends, and a good home. Just being involved in the community makes you feel good. Now Salmans is a senior mentor, helping out a group of sophomores. It gives you a chance to help out the sophomores who are lost in the school, she said. The number of mentors has swelled past 220 (they all go through background checks). Harris takes that as a great sign. It's great to see how many people really want to be involved with kids, Harris said, noting that the mentors walk into the high school from different ages and backgrounds. There are military, retired people, business people, Native Americans. There are all different kinds of backgrounds and age groups, Harris said. Harris would like to see the program be funded and staffed more, and become a more permanent part of the NKHS landscape. But she is proud of the steps that have been made. It's been a really exciting program to see grow. "

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