NHP-GCP programs explore happiness

Robert W Katulak

As we prepare for the Hallmark holiday of Valentine’s Day, I thought it would be appropriate to inform our readers about the many programs we have in place in the New Hyde Park-Garden City Park School District that touch the hearts of the students we teach. 

Students are more than test scores so their feelings are addressed through the affective domain. Some of the programs we have implemented are administered by our three psychologists Dr. Joe Shaffery, Dr. Robyn Kurasaki and Maria Georgakis are at Garden City Park. Mrs. Georgakis works annually to address campaigns to prevent bullying at Garden City Park School. She begins each year with a theme, which for this year was, “Happy to be Me at Garden City Park.” Students watched the film Happy Feet and discussed the movie’s message. Maria runs social skills groups across the grades to help with adjustment issues. She is also assisted by the Social Worker, Sheri Vaz Lopes. One additional specific program is the Girls’ Lunch Club for the 5th and 6th graders designed to develop self-respect and respect for each other. The group provides a safe and educational environment to deal with girl bullying.

In Manor Oaks School and Hillside Grade School, Dr. Joseph Shaffery works diligently in counseling students both individually and in groups on coping strategies, so they can learn strategies to deal with the emotional challenges in their lives. Dr. Joe also holds daily consultation with teachers to provide an optimal emotional climate for mainstreamed children who have unique life circumstances.

At the NHP Road School, Dr. Robyn Kurasaki has created a program from the National Association of School Psychologists called Homework, Organization and Planning Skills (HOPS). This evidence based program provides interventions for students who have difficulty with organization, time management and planning skills in the school environment. Skills are very practical such as a system for keeping a binder, book bag and keeping their desk neat. This program has effective results in improving a student’s organization skills, increasing grades, decreasing homework problems and creating long-term academic success. 

Other programs such as Caring Ambassadors designed to prevent and decrease bullying are chaired by our district Social Workers, Lori Cohen and Sheri Vaz Lopes. Mrs. Cohen has also implemented other programs at Manor Oaks School and Hillside Grade School. She runs and coordinates the seven-week curriculum in her building called “Bully Proofing Our Schools.” She runs a Banana Splits Group for children whose parents are separated or divorced. Lori also runs a ten week curriculum called “Too Good for Drugs,” to teach students on how to resist peer pressure on using illegal substances. This is a county-wide trained program. One other interesting program she runs is a two-session program in the spring called “Caring Kids,” This program teaches kindergarten and first grade students the importance of being a good friend and accepting differences. 

At the New Hyde Park Road School, Mrs. Vaz Lopes, Social Worker, has just started a program called “Beautiful Me” with the collaboration of the Principal, Mrs. Marenghi and a number of teachers. This program is a self-esteem program for fifth and sixth grade girls. In addition to previously mentioned programs such as, Too Good for Drugs and Banana Splits she also runs the Caring Majority Ambassador Program at Garden City Park and the Road Schools, which is designed to teach sixth graders to stand up to bullying behaviors. She also runs a Buddy Program at both schools. This program partners students with faculty/staff members in an attempt to make them feel connected to the school.

Every classroom teacher in our district has daily activities that reinforce the character traits of the month. These include responsibility, respect, citizenship, kindness, compassion, fairness, tolerance, honesty, trust worthiness, courage, courtesy, cooperation and self-discipline. We want to instill these traits in students, so they live and exhibit these traits in their daily lives in school, at home, and in their neighborhoods. 

As you can see by the wide variety of programs that are differentiated by needs of our students at the different schools, we educate the whole child in our district and touch their hearts in each endeavor.

About the author

Robert W Katulak

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