On Thursday, Jan.14, Cabrillo Middle School students dressed up in old Western attire-rustic vests, prairie dresses and boots- for their stage production of “Pecos Bill & Slue-Foot Sue Meet the Dirty Dan Gang,” directed by Adrienne Marquette. Any student who auditioned got a part, and students sang and danced uninhibitedly in front of supportive peers. Such is the carefree spirit that the school staff strives to promote among its student body. So it makes sense that Project Cornerstone is awarding Cabrillo Middle School this year’s Caring School Climate Award. Barbara Cardenas, executive director of Central YMCA, nominated the school.
“We actually don’t do the Project Cornerstone curriculum here,” says Marc Auger, vice-principal of Cabrillo Middle School. “We do our own home-grown character development stuff. It’s part of a committee that I run called the Culture Climate Committee (CCC). It comprises of eight teachers and myself and they’re real teacher leaders. There is a staff philosophy that has been here at Cabrillo for years. Our philosophy is to work with each kid and celebrate their strengths and to create a campus where we all get along and value diversity.”
According to Auger, the CCC organizes character development lessons. One of them is an Anti-bully Day. On that day, the school oversees three different lessons for each grade level on issues, such as cyberbullying, conventional bullying and getting along with peers. The CCC also puts together Respect, Responsibility and Integrity Day where each grade level is assigned a word to pay attention to. For example, the sixth graders might get “respect,” seventh graders, “responsibility” and eighth graders, “integrity.”
Besides hosting a theater program and character development days, Cabrillo also offers a wiffle ball league to foster respect and inclusiveness among students.
“We call ourselves the UWOC-PL, the United Wifflers of Cabrillo Pavement League. says Stan Garber, principal of Cabrillo Middle School. “I open the place at 6:15 a.m. every morning. Kids arrive and roll out the wiffle ball cart and they play ball. It’s a chance for children to come and have fun and treat each other respectfully. Wiffle ball is similar to baseball. It’s a sandlot game where children put themselves into teams. A teacher is the pitcher. I’m the catcher. We don’t keep score. We just keep track of the outs. Sometimes in the middle school level, kids don’t know where they fit in and wiffle ball is an inclusive game.”
Garber shares that the Western Association of Schools & Colleges (WASC) recognized Cabrillo Middle School’s character development program two years ago. At Project Cornerstone’s Asset Champion Breakfast in March, the school will receive an extra feather in its hat when the Caring School Climate Award is officially presented.
“Middle school is a wonderful time in children’s lives,” Garber says. “We want to give them an environment where they can perform academically, be with their friends, and just be kids and that’s why we won the award.”