Harley’s Heroes Celebrates Upstanders at NCA
The key to preventing bullying is developing healthy habits and mindsets before problems start – but having an adorable pooch part of the program doesn’t hurt any.
North County Academy promotes kindness through its Harley’s Heroes program, which features stickers of its namesake, a 5-year-old goldendoodle that visits the school a few times a week for therapy and as an incentive for good behavior.
When a staff member sees a student standing up for a classmate, they give them a Harley’s Heroes sticker, which features a picture of the dog. The types of activities that can earn a sticker include standing up for a classmate, including someone who was being excluded, and helping someone who is upset.
“It takes a lot to speak up and be an upstander,” Principal Stephen Gotowala said. “We know a lot of our kids have good hearts, but as a society, we tend to be bystanders.”
Gotowala said he was surprised at how much the students value the stickers.
“I wondered if the older kids were going to want the sticker,” he explained. “They’re putting it on the back of their cell phones. It really does mean a lot to them if they’re doing that.”
Everyone at the school loves Harley, so they know what it means to be a Harley’s Hero, said Talin Yesaie, therapeutic program manager at the school.
“Harley just runs the school,” she joked. “He’s spoiled rotten.”
North County Academy is a San Diego County Office of Education school that serves nearly 50 students who require more intensive support than their home school districts can provide. Most of the classes have a teacher, two aides, and eight to 10 students. Students also get onsite therapeutic help from the San Diego Center for Children.
The San Diego County Office of Education's North Coastal Consortium for Special Education opened the school in 2001 for the 14 districts it serves as well as the Poway Unified School District and school districts in the North Inland Special Education Region.
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