Boro High School begins another year On Point!
Had a few members of the Class of 1966 had their way, Point Pleasant Borough High School and its panther mascot would likely not exist today, instead Point Pleasant Borough’s students would attend JFK High School while demonstrating their Beaver Pride. These were just some of the revelations members of the Class of 1966 shared with the Point Borough’s current students at the kickoff rally for Be On Point, Point Pleasant Borough High School’s Positive Behavior Supports in Schools, or PBSIS, initiative, which kicked off its fifth year with a pair of rallies held at the school on Sept. 23.
Student performances, games, giveaways and special guest speakers were just some of the featured activities on the agenda for the launch of the school’s fifth year of implementation for the positive behavior support initiative.
Modeled after the state’s PBSIS system, Be On Point is an incentive-based program designed to improve the school climate.
“Be On Point and the greater PBSIS philosophy is centered around the belief that by identifying, recognizing and rewarding positive behaviors, schools can change their culture, becoming more inclusive in the process,” said Point Pleasant Borough High School Business Teacher and Be On Point Team Leader Dave Johnson.
“Be On Point redefines expectations for student behavior, while identifying external factors that could be contributing to disciplinary issues,” he said. “The overarching goal, however, is to promote acceptance among students, especially towards the special needs population.”
Traditionally held toward the end of September, the rally marks the annual start of the Be On Point initiative. For the incoming freshman, the rally serves as an introduction to the school’s PBSIS program; for students in the upper grades, the rally represents a time to recommit to the principles of Be On Point - Respect, Responsibility and Pride.
The pair of rallies – one for freshmen and sophomores and another for juniors and seniors - opened with a performance by Point Pleasant Borough High School’s Competition Marching Band accompanied by the Varsity Cheerleading Team, which was followed by some words of welcome from Principal Kurt Karcich.
“Once again I want to thank you for your commitment to Be On Point,” the principal told the audience of juniors and seniors. “Because you consistently demonstrate the Be On Point principles - Respect, Responsibility and Pride – we’ve come up with some new and exciting initiatives planned for you to piggyback from last year.
“As juniors and seniors, you’ve become Be On Point’s role models,” Mr. Karcich said, “so while we’re watching you to see when you’re demonstrating the program’s principles, we want you to also be on the lookout, watching for staff members who are exemplifying Respect, Responsibility and Pride. You’ll have the opportunity to earn a [Be On Point raffle] ticket for yourself and another to award to a staff member.”
Principal Karcich also introduced Paws for a Cause, a new initiative that will provide students additional opportunities to earn Be On Point tickets, which can be redeemed for prizes.
“Each week I’ll announce a new Paws for a Cause, announcing a specific behavior or action we’ll be looking for among students,” explained Mr. Karcich. “Examples would be holding the door for someone, saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ among other things.”
After pausing to throw out Be On Point t-shirts to the eager audience, Principal Karcich turned over the mic to this year’s emcees Denis Long and Matt Kimak. A series of skits gave way to an encore performance by the Point Pleasant Borough High School Competition Marching Band and the Varsity Cheerleaders, who were joined onstage by school mascot Zanther the Panther. The performance was followed by a recap of the high school’s fundraising efforts in support of Louisiana flood relief, which so far, have yielded over $2,000.
The Show Choir was up next with a performance of “Brand New Day” from The Wiz, followed by a brief history lesson courtesy of Point Pleasant Borough High School Class of 1966 alums Robert DeVoto and Rosemary House. Mr. DeVoto shared with the students the struggles his class endured as the high school’s first graduating class who were tasked with establishing the school’s mascot. He explained that the proximity of the ocean had the class convinced that their mascot should be an aquatic animal. The beaver, whale, muskrat and lobster were all under consideration before one student, out of the blue, suggested the panther. The class was in agreement and Zanther the Panther was born.
The Class of ’66’s second major decision occurred following the death of President John F. Kennedy, when, according to Ms. House, schools across the country were anxious to honor the fallen president by changing their names. A vote was held and though, while close, did not garner enough support to warrant the change, thus the school remained, Point Pleasant Borough High School.
Additional skits, Lip Sync Battles featuring each class’s advisors and a repeat performance by three-piece ensemble featuring student Jimmy “Law” Lawroski with the high school’s Director of Bands Scott Visco on drums and Business Teacher Dave Fisher on guitar, who debuted at last year’s kickoff rounded out the rally’s schedule before its culminating keynote speaker - Denise Ghizzone.
Deemed the Voice of the Lifetime Assistance for Developmental and Challenging Individual Needs, or LADACIN, Network, Denise Ghizzone delivered the keynote address at the very first Be On Point kickoff in 2012. At the time of her first address, Ms. Ghizzone was already an incredibly accomplished woman. A 10-year employee of LADACIN’s Schroth School, Ms. Ghizzone educates children with disabilities on how to use assistive devices. She also, acts as a consultant to speech therapists, assisting them with alternative communication devices; serves as a mentor for students with disabilities; and visits schools throughout the state to educate children and teens about disability awareness and sensitivity training. During the last five years, Ms. Ghizzone has also become a published author. And she has accomplished all this, and much more, despite being non-verbal and unable to use her hands, arms or legs due to being born with cerebral palsy.
After an introduction, delivered by Schroth student Taylor English, 17, Ms. Ghizzone emerged onstage, where she was greeted with thunderous applause. The ovation quickly subsided as the audience listened with rapt attention to her speech about the challenges and triumphs of living with cerebral palsy.
Using an assistive communication device called an ECO, a voice output system which uses eye gaze technology, tracking the user’s eye movement to interpret into speech, Ms. Ghizzone told the audience that despite being unable to walk and talk, she accepts and loves herself, and that she, like all people with disabilities, wants to be treated like everybody else.
“I would like to be able to talk and walk, but I can’t,” she said, through her ECO. “I have to make the best of it. I can accept myself for who I am. I think I could have been a lot worse off than I am right now.”
Ms. Ghizzone shared with the students her experiences growing up with cerebral palsy, and her fight to be treated with fairness and respect. She spoke of setting and achieving her three life goals, including going to college, getting a job, and becoming an author, the latter of which she accomplished just this year.
She encouraged the students to try to empathize with those with disabilities, to reserve judgment, to get to know people with special needs, and above all to treat everyone with kindness and respect.
“When you approach someone in a wheelchair, stand in front of us and please don’t touch our equipment,” she said. “Be kind and talk to us. Don’t judge a person by what you see in front of you. You are missing a lot if you do that.”
“I’m so grateful to Denise Ghizzone for once again sharing her powerful message with our students,” said Principal Karcich. “She reminds us to never underestimate the power of positivity or the impact you can have on others. I also thank her for inspiring the establishment of the PPBHS-Schroth School Initiative.”
Now in its fourth year, the PPBHS-Schroth School Initiative includes a series of outreaches and exchanges between the two schools and the Schroth School’s sister school, the Lehmann School. Among the outreaches are shared gym classes at the Point Pleasant Borough High School, visits by PPBHS performing arts groups to Schroth and Lehmann and the high school’s annual hosting of the Lehmann School’s Sports Day, for which Borough students provide assistance and support to Lehmann’s students.
“It’s thanks to this reciprocal relationship that Point Pleasant Borough High School was recently named the recipient of the LADACIN Network’s Young Leaders Award,” Mr. Karcich said.
Patricia Golden-Gartner, LADACIN’s Community Outreach Liaison, was on hand to explain why the high school was chosen for the award, she said, “All of us at the LADACIN Network believe that the students of this district came into the world ready to teach the real meaning of life. That has been their purpose from the very beginning.
“My colleagues will forever be inspired by the model of kindness, support and compassion that has been so clearly demonstrated by your curriculum here,” she said. All Point Borough students are always on point. You have learned in your short visits to our school how to turn our children’s disabilities into their incred-abilities. This why we are so proud to announce that the students of Point Pleasant Borough High School have been named the LADACIN Network’s humanitarians of the year, recipient of our Young Leaders Award. It’s a huge award, which you so greatly deserve.”
Superintendent of Schools Vincent S. Smith also weighed in on the Be On Point kickoff and presentation, saying, “I always look forward to the Be On Point kickoff as well as to the annual launches of all our schools’ character education programs.
“Our schools’ character education teams do a tremendous job of designing fun and engaging events to introduce the programs’ tenets for incoming students while providing a refresher to our returning students,” he said. “The events represent a time for renewed school spirit and positivity while providing a platform to honor our students and staff for various accomplishments.
“I also commend our staff for securing guest speakers who successfully engage our students with messages that are as important as they are compelling, like Denise Ghizzone,” he said. “By sharing her unique perspective into what it’s like to live with a disability, Ms. Ghizzone spreads a message of acceptance and inclusion, emblematic of the BE ON POINT initiative.”