Teenager’s project builds school spirit and encourages positive life choices

North Kansas City, Mo. — An exciting initiative is underway in a local school district that has high school students being mentors for elementary school students, and doing it in a stealth way, during the fun of recess. This isn’t a top down project. It’s a grass roots concept created and grown by a high school student who is this week’s FOX 4 Reaching 4 Excellence Young Achiever.

Recess at Briarcliff Elementary School north of the river isn’t always just about a play break from the classroom work. On Friday afternoons the kids get to have some fun with students from nearby North Kansas City High School.

“I love seeing the kids’ faces light up every week,” said FOX 4 Reaching 4 Excellence Young Achiever of the Week Caitlynn Bohanon. Caitlynn and the other teenagers are positive role models who have pledged to be drug-free and are making good life choices. And in an under-the-radar way they are encouraging the Briarcliff kids to do the same.

“The project is called Recess Buddies,” said Caitlynn. “And basically it’s all about creating a kind of mentor-based relationship so we can kind of instill some of those healthy lifestyle little tips, kind of slide that in there with them while we are kind of creating that bond.” Recess Buddies is a main project of a student organization at North Kansas City High called Hornet Pride. And Caitlynn, a junior, knows so much about Hornet Pride because she created it and drew other Northtown juniors and seniors into the group.

“I bleed purple and gold,” said Caitlynn with a big, enthusiastic smile. Caitlynn said her love of Northtown High is at the heart of her two primary objectives for Hornet Pride – to promote substance abuse prevention among the Briarcliff kids and to build their excitement to one day be active, spirited students at Northtown High.

“I think it’s really important that you should love where you’re going and everything about your school and your environment and where you’re spending some of the most important time of your adolescence,” said Caitlynn.

“When she has her mind set on something, she goes 100 percent,” said North Kansas City High School social studies teacher and student council sponsor Pat O’Keefe about Caitlynn. O’Keefe said Caitlynn succeeded in getting Hornet Pride and Recess Buddies up and running because she is so organized, ambitious and energetic and wise beyond her years.

“Because of this program, she is going to help mold our current students and future students into that, you know, that role model that she has grown to be,” said O’Keefe. And O’Keefe said other students are eager to follow her lead.

“She just has always been so positive,” said O’Keefe. “I think that’s the biggest thing in this day and age is that you need people that are positive. Positive thinkers. Positive doers.”

“I didn’t think it would be this big,” said Caitlynn about when she first conceived of Hornet Pride and Recess Buddies last spring. “And whenever I first announced it at school, I had 54 applicants who wanted to be in Hornet Pride. Everyone has been so welcoming and accepting of the program. And it makes me really happy. Makes me feel like I’ve done something great. And I love it!” Caitlynn said she cares so deeply about her cause because her extended family has been caught up in substance abuse.

”You know,” said Caitlynn, “how hard it is to recover from that.” She wants other families to be spared that pain and trouble and is out to grow Hornet Pride and Recess Buddies to get that accomplished.

“Oh gosh,” said Caitlynn, “I would love to see the Hornet Pride, the whole program, everywhere. I think it should be at every high school. And I just think it’s really important that every single student knows that they can reach their full potential that way.” That’s the power of being positive.

We have only scratched the surface of all that Caitlynn has done and is doing as a young achiever. She’s a top scholar who takes difficult, high-level courses in Northtown High’s demanding International Baccalaureate Diploma Program. She’s a veteran member of the school’s varsity dance team and varsity choir. And she’s an A-plus tutor and a cheerleading coach for elementary school children.