PITTSBURG — Together, Lakeside Elementary students learn how to navigate through difficult issues through the BIST Buddies program.

BIST Buddies is the brainchild of Lakeside Elementary Counselor Melinda DeGruson. She implemented the program at Meadowlark before she became counselor at her current school.

The school-wide initiative is branched off USD 250’s district-wide program called BIST — which stands for Behavior Intervention Support Team.

It allows students to work towards being, “great role models and mentors for the other kids,” through peer role models and coaches DeGruson said.

Students in kindergarten, second and fourth grades, and first, third and fifth grades are paired up in pods of three. The groups of varied-aged students meet monthly to learn social skills, how to manage anger, how to get along with others, lessons on bullying, respect and responsibility.

Additionally, if a student is struggling to make a good choice, DeGruson said, they can be assigned to a “Buddy Room” where they can “cool down and rethink” and visit with their BIST Buddy.

Teachers are also paired up, along with special education and title teachers.

“They talk about behaviors happening in the classroom and work as a team on what they can do differently,” DeGruson said.

DeGruson said the monthly meetings are one her “favorite things to do” and the children look forward to it.

“It’s amazing,” she said. “The conversations you have with them, you see kids who don't usually jump up and ask questions take charge.”

DeGruson said the program is a positive way for students to work through different topics in team-building exercises.

DeGruson said she was encouraged by Lakeside’s Principal Rhonda White after observing the children’s progress to send in an application the for the Kansas Schools of Character Recognition Program.

In May, the school received the Promising Practice Recognition and the day before heading out to the recognition ceremony, DeGruson found out the school was also going to receive national recognition for BIST Buddies in the fall.

“I feel like it means we are promoting a program that is helping students with their character,” she said. “It is recognized at state and national levels as an important piece of education for our kids.”
— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at spotter@morningsun.net or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.