Students Empowered to Change School Climate


Todd Camaratta

Front row (Left to Right): Brooke Mcneel, Chloe Case, Brandon Ixtepan, Riean Minnich, Jaycee Witcomb Middle row (Left to Right): Nathan Hormell, Jayden Graham, Paige Uhmholtz, Lindsey Fusco, Mia Kosoglow, Jamie Lynch, Alex Staihley, Hilari Parsons, Toni Burns Back row (Left to Right): Jacob Meridith, Rashawn Hicks, Austin Taylor

A group of Tyrone High School students traveled to Pittsburgh for a seminar and walked away inspired by several great ideas to improve our school.

The seminar, presented by Josten’s, began with a presentation from a former high school principal who helped to turn around his struggling school.  He shared ideas for how students can increase positivity in their school. Many ideas about how to build a more compassionate and inclusive school were brought up such as painting senior parking spaces, a special needs prom, ways to recognize students who enlist in the military, and other ideas.

It was great to see what other schools were doing and bring it back to ours

— Senior Nathan Hormell

‘’It was great to see what other schools were doing and bring it back to ours,’’ said senior student vice president Nate Hormell. ‘’It was hella lit.’’

The students were accompanied by YAN adviser Cummins McNitt and Yearbook/Eagle Eye adviser Todd Cammarata.  Both Cammarata and McNitt were also very impressed by the program.

“I hope that our students, staff and administration can find ways to improve our overall climate at the school,” said McNitt, “We need to begin listening to each other and not just reacting.”

The keynote address was by motivational speaker Mike Smith. Smith has founded two non-profits and influenced hundreds of thousands of youth in schools nationwide. He is the Executive Director for The Bay, one of the few non-profit skateparks in the country.  According to his website, Mike works with young people from all walks of life, encouraging them to pursue their passions and live out their dreams.

He is also the Executive Director of Skate For Change (SFC), an organization that empowers young skateboarders to help the homeless in their communities. SFC chapters have now spread to major cities nationwide.

Smith grew up in small town and did what many small town kids do, he joined the sport teams. He was very successful as an athlete but unfortunately got caught up in his own success and did not treat others with respect.  However, Smith ended up befriending a special needs student named Calvin. Over time the two became the dynamic duo. Calvin helped Smith be the person he wanted to be. Smith’s friends accepted him as their own and eventually they did everything together.

‘’Helping others comes when no one else is watching,’’ is Smith’s motto.  Smith claims ever since the day he met Calvin his life was changed forever. At first he was just helping him because it was another thing that made him look good. Later Mike learned that he wasn’t helping the Calvin, he was helping him.

This won’t be easy and it won’t happen fast – we all need to be patient with each other and always determined.

— Mr. Cummins McNitt

The seminar ended with Smith encouraging students to go outside of their comfort zones and make new friends.

“The presentation was very well done.  It gave us a lot of great ideas that we could use to improve our school,” said Cammarata.

Students also had time to reflect and focus on the ideas that they could take back to their school. Students reflected personally on themselves and on their school before leaving the assembly.

The students then had the opportunity to meet with Mr. Yoder, TAHS principal, and introduced new ideas to the district. Yoder was very inspired by the students enthusiasm and can’t wait to see the change they will make in their school.

“The key to improving the overall climate is to get buy-in from our students and staff,” said McNitt, “This won’t be easy and it won’t happen fast – we all need to be patient with each other and always determined.”

The students are hopeful that at least some of their ideas will be put into action for the 2017-2018 school year.