PINELLAS PARK – The centerpiece of the recent Eighth Annual Teachers Recognition celebration was Pinellas Park's initiation of a new Do The Right Thing program to reward students for demonstrating good values and behaviors.
The Pinellas Park Police Department is the first in the county to open a chapter. It will be the 48th chapter to be opened in the United States.
The program began in 1990 when a teenager in Miami was recognized by the chief of police for turning in a loaded gun he found at his school. Now, more than 1,000 Miami students are nominated monthly for their good deeds and positive behaviors.
“It took us 15 years to get to where we are in Miami,” said Jodi Atkison, executive director for the Do The Right Thing program. “Give your own program time to grow. Your input, as teachers, is key to the program.”
Here’s how the program will work. Each month, nominations will be accepted for any student attending a Pinellas Park public, private or other school who has displayed exemplary behavior and attitude. Teachers and schools make the nominations.
All nominees will receive a T-shirt and certificate. Five students will be selected monthly to receive an incentive prize that will include a $50 U.S. Savings Bond. At the end of the school year, all of the Students of the Month will compete for Student of the Year honors announced during an annual banquet.
“This program will be contagious,” said Officer Brian Unmisig.
To learn more, Unmisig attended another city’s annual banquet, where he said the “kids were treated like royalty.”
The event was even televised during prime time.
“We hear every night about kids who make wrong decisions,” said Unmisig. “It’s good to hear about rewarding kids who make the right ones.”
“The best part about the program is that you don’t have to be academically or athletically gifted to be recognized,” said Barrett.
The new program is solely based on making the right choices. Wal-Mart has partnered with other local businesses to provide student rewards and other promotional items. Partners include Park Auto Mall, Mercantile Bank, Staples, McDonald’s, Lazer X-treme, St. Petersburg College, Mick for Hair, Sam’s Club and Astro Skate.
Pinellas Park’s Officer Donna Saxer, in crime prevention and community awareness, serves as the program’s spark plug.
“The program is designed to positively impact the youth of our area by publicly recognizing children who distinguish themselves by their behavior and by establishing them as role models for their peers,” Saxer said.
Other cities are welcome to learn more about the Do The Right Thing program. The program has received approval from the school district to be offered throughout the county.
“We are hopeful to help spread the program throughout the entire area,” said Saxer.