ALTOONA, Wis. (WEAU) -- Who you got Altoona? That's the question the Altoona High School principal is asking all of his students. The new program is building connections within the school in a whole new way.
We all know that high school can be a tough time for many teenagers. But it might be a little easier if they had the right person to talk to. That's why Principal Jim Reif is asking his students: Who you got?
As the number of students at Altoona High School continues to grow, Principal Jim Reif wants to make sure every single one of his more than 400 students feels comfortable walking in the halls. "Mental health is a big issue; it's a big challenge with our teenagers,” Reif said.
And that's where the adults come in. "What we are looking to do is have every student identify one adult in the building that they feel connected to,” Reif added.
Students could choose a teacher, janitor, counselor or any adult they feel comfortable talking to. "As a way for our students to identify a safe and trusted adult in the building who can help them through any type of situation that may occur in or out of school,” said Jen Kronenberg, the mental health coordinator.
When a student has a bad day instead of escalating to detention, principal Reif simply asks, who you got? “It always feels great that someone is there and that I know that if I ever have a problem that I don't feel comfortable going to my parents to or my friends to that they are always there,” said freshman, Elli Anderson.
While students can always go to their friends, they now also have a trusted adult. "Adults are a little bit smarter than teenagers, just a little bit,” said Zoe Nalls, a sophomore.
The program just kicked off in December and already is being put into use. "There are some issues that you just can't go to your friends because you think it might be spread around so being able to have a teacher that you can talk to allows you to have an assurance that it's not going to be spread around the school,” said senior, Donovan Adrian.
Students can go to their "person" for anything school related, on a personal level or even just to have a buddy when you visit the principal’s office. "It's kind of reassuring I'd say it's kind of nice to know that there is someone there that can help me if I'm in a sticky situation that I can't handle but they could help me handle,” Nalls said.
Who you got? It’s just three words that are making a statement in the hallways and beyond. "It's so heartwarming just to feel like the kids are feeling connected, they are feeling safe, they are feeling like their voices are being heard,” Reif said.
It was not mandatory for the kids to write down their trusted adult, but they had over 3/4 of students participate in the program so far.