Besides learning the skills needed for future jobs, interns at the Bartow County College and Career Academy also are learning the character traits they need to hold positions in their desired career field.
The academy is in the second full year of its Integrity, Compassion, Accountability, Respect and Excellence — ICARE — program that focuses on the standards that teachers felt their interns should master as they transition from high school and college to the workforce.
"As the BCSS [Bartow County School System] began the positive behavior interventions and supports process on a system level, we saw the need to adapt that process to meet the mission of our school to provide our interns with a competitive advantage in the workforce or their post-secondary education," BCCCA learning support specialist Suzanne Morse said.
A group of academy teachers who served on the PBIS subcommittee during the initial planning year of 2018-19 developed the ICARE program after discovering these were the traits that Cartersville Medical Center and many other businesses in Bartow County used in defining their work-ethic expectations, according to Morse.
"During preplanning for the 2018-2019 school year, academy instructors were invited to tour Cartersville Medical Center and other local businesses," she said. "During the tour at CMC, we noticed posters for ICARE around the hospital. As we looked closer at those posters, a conversation occurred among the teachers and staff about what ICARE meant at CMC and how it impacted the environment in the facility. The more the conversation progressed, the more our teachers realized that these were the skills we needed to instill in our interns because they are the skills employers demand most. So when the PBIS subcommittee met to start developing our program, we decided that ICARE would be the best way to carry out our mission and improve the learning environment at the academy."
Each ICARE trait has standards associated with it that fit the location within the academy where students are present, Morse said.
"For example, in our student hub, 'integrity' means only being in the hub during breaks or when your teacher gives you permission," she said. "In the hallways, 'respect' means being aware and considerate of the personal space of others."
Instructors also work "collaboratively with their students to develop ICARE standards for their classrooms," Morse said.
"Every class used the overarching ICARE traits to determine what behavior should look like inside the specific classroom," she said. "A good example of this is in our public safety classes. The students came up with the following expectation for accountability: 'I will stand firm in my commitments to my instructor and fellow interns.' The students developed this expectation because they believed it embodied the character of a future public safety officer in our community, and when one of their fellow students doesn’t live up to that expectation, they address it as a class."
Cass High junior Allee Harden, who is enrolled in BCCCA's health science pathway, said the ICARE program has "100%" made her a better intern.
"I like the program, and it gives us a standard to work towards," she said. "It makes me pay attention more, and if I don’t meet those standards, I feel like I am letting down the school."
Being aware of the standards "makes everyone step up to a higher standard of accountability," Allee said.
"Basically, our behavior rubs off on everyone," she said.
This year, ICARE covers 720 interns in grades 10-12 who are studying phlebotomy, sports medicine, EKG technician, certified nursing assistant, pharmacy, public safety, cosmetology, welding, automotive technology, audio/video broadcasting and heating, ventilation and air conditioning.
To encourage interns to strive for making the five ICARE traits part of their daily conduct, the academy is seeking contributions of gift cards or tangible prizes from local businesses as well as Amazon gift cards and monetary donations from the community to award to those who display the standards throughout the school day.
"Small prizes such as Chick-fil-A gift cards, McDonald's lunches, etc. are given out on a weekly basis," Morse said. "When donations are received, larger prizes are given out at the end of each month. In the past, the large prizes have included Bluetooth speakers, Amazon gift cards and an Apple watch."
She added any money that's received will be used to buy prizes for the weekly and monthly drawings.
To receive an incentive prize, an intern "must be recognized by an instructor or other school staff member for exhibiting one of the ICARE traits," Morse said.
"When they are recognized, they receive a 'shout-out' card that goes on our ICARE wall in the front hallway of the school, and they get Academy Cash, which is a ticket into the drawing for prizes," she said.
Allee said she loves getting Academy Cash cards.
"I feel like someone recognizes my work and rewards me for doing the right thing," she said.
Anyone who would like to make a donation to the ICARE program should contact Morse at 770-606-5182.
Prizes also can be mailed or dropped off at the academy at 738 Grassdale Road, Cartersville, GA 30121.
"The ICARE program has made a remarkable difference in the behavior of our interns and the culture in our school," Morse said. "Interns are invested in the program and grow in their professional behavior throughout their time at the academy. The donations we receive allow our teachers and staff to continue to implement the program and engage our students in this valuable learning experience."