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Keys program is another creative way to help kids

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By Staff Brunswick Beacon

When it comes to keeping young people motivated and out of trouble, it often calls for those who work with them most often to be creative.

At Shallotte Middle School it appears administrators have done just that. Somehow, they’ve convinced young people it’s in their best interest to come to school—and to be there early.

Through the Keeping Every Youth Successful (KEYS) program, young people show up to school by 7:45 a.m. and go through a regiment that mirrors life in the military. They do formations and close-order drills. You’ll even see them working on their physical fitness by partaking in a number of training activities including calisthenics.

And if that’s not enough to baffle your mind, how about this… the students partake in the program on a voluntary basis, even while they’re being ordered around in a drill-sergeant-like manner by school resource officer Brunswick County Sheriff’s Deputy John Rogers.

Why do these students give up six weeks of their lives for this mini boot camp, especially under the wary eyes of nonparticipating students? KEYS kids say they’re doing it because it’s a program that is changing their lives. They’re learning how to care for themselves, the importance of team building, how to be successful, how to make positive choices and respecting themselves and others. They’re getting a better understanding of the importance of loyalty and dependability and how to lead healthier lifestyles.

That’s a lot to take in before 8 a.m., but luckily KEYS provides a safe, structured environment for middle schoolers to do just that.

One of the key aspects of the program is it is open to all students and it is not something done to punish them. It’s designed to motivate them while also teaching about the harmful effects of illegal drugs and substance abuse.

And what are the students expected to do in return? They’re asked to keep their grades up, attend the program regularly, share their knowledge with others and become role models for other students. That’s a tough thing to do, especially at that age, and it’s inspiring to know participants care enough about the program and themselves to spread the message.

It’s innovative thinking like this that promotes early intervention. The sooner we can reach young people through valuable programs in schools, the more likely they are to learn to value of making good, healthy, smart choices for the rest of their lives.

The KEYS program is one of many throughout Brunswick County geared toward helping young people live better lives, and because of the commitment of adults like Rogers, we’re likely to see its great payoff in the future.