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Upbeat members talk about their projects at the Upbeat breakfast held recently. | (Daniel Jackson / The Berlin Citizen)

Listening and evolving secret to 25 years of Upbeat


Upbeat Adviser Alice Mitchell said over the 25 years that Berlin’s Upbeat program existed, it has evolved and changed.

Twenty-five years ago the Department of Education gave the high school a blank check: if the school could develop a program that fit the needs of the community, it would receive a grant.

Today, Mitchell said the Upbeat program is one of the few programs still going from the Department of Education’s round of grants so many years ago.

“We’re smart enough to listen to the kids,” she said.

The peer leadership program held a breakfast Dec. 6 at the VFW to showcase the kinds of projects the 400 students in the program do. According to Mitchell, students in the club perform 125 service projects in the schools and community each year, such as helping the Kiwanis Club sell Christmas trees.

“The more they do in the community, the more they feel a part of the community,” Mitchell said.

Three times a year, students in Upbeat go away to Camp Woodstock for leadership training, such as public speaking, and how to run a meeting.

Their fourth year in Upbeat is “their internship year,” Mitchell said, where the students break up into groups and work on various projects in the community.

Take, for example, the program Upbeat runs at McGee Middle School. This year, the students revamped the program to better appeal to the younger students.

Last year, the program where middle school students could hang out in the gym every other Friday after school was not very popular, according to seniors Brittany Sullivan and Ryan Ogden, the two Upbeat members who manned the table at the recent breakfast.

The program, dubbed “Drop-ins” kept losing money, and only 25 to 30 students would show up on a given night.

The high school students changed the program. First, they changed the name to “Y-zone,” short for “Youth Zone.” Then, they changed the setup and the rules.

When Y-zone comes to McGee, half of the gym is reserved for some kind of sport, like basketball, the other half for a movie.

In a classroom, the students set up a Wii console for middle school students interested in playing video games.

Y-zone sells refreshments, and the proceeds go back into the program.

“We get at least 40 kids every night. I’ve seen 100,” Ogden said.

Y-zone took a tip from Upbeat and started asking middle school students what they wanted to see at the hangouts.

“We want them to have a say on what they’re going to do every Friday night,” Sullivan said.

In addition to the hangout, Upbeat members help tutor McGee students and give presentations about leadership and respect.

“It’s like an Upbeat for middle school,” Sullivan said.

Brian Thomas, a student coordinator, who manages the houses, like the McGee House, said each house works on a different project in the community. The Griswold House recently finished producing the craft fair at Griswold Elementary School and the Hospital House volunteers at the Hospital for Special Care.

Thomas said his experience in Upbeat is busy, but rewarding. The high school senior said Upbeat gives him a sense of responsibility and maturity, a place for him to practice his poise.



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