Walking through the hallways at Battle Ground High School, visitors are bound to notice three words emblazoned everywhere they look: on the walls, on bulletin boards and flyers, on the backs of staff members’ t-shirts, and even on the school’s website. More than mere words, “Unity, Toughness, Class,” or UTC as it’s known to students and staff, provides a guideline of ideals for students to strive for in all aspects of their lives.
What started as a set of behavior aspirations for student athletes has permeated the entire school. “UTC is not a set of rules,” said Athletic Director Matt Stanfill, who helped champion and expand UTC at BGHS. “Rather, it’s a set of criteria to keep students accountable for their actions, no matter whether that’s on the playing field, in the classroom, or out in the community.”
While not currently an explicit part of the Battle Ground Public School district’s Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) program, UTC goes hand-in-hand with the PBIS mission of encouraging students' positive behaviors. Battle Ground is implementing PBIS methods at schools in support of the district's focus on social-emotional learning. With PBIS, staff teach behavioral expectations to students just as they would any core subject, and then use positive feedback to reinforce those expectations.
At Battle Ground High School, UTC has put the focus on character building. “Our goal is for all students to be engaged and accountable members of our community,” said Principal Mike Hamilton. “The UTC program has grown into a common language that can be used by students, teachers, coaches, parents, and community and business leaders to help us all live up to our ideals.”
Like PBIS, a key component of UTC is educating students about what the program is and empowering them to participate in the process of developing their own character-building goals. At BGHS, staff have discovered that the UTC message resonates much more deeply with students when developed and delivered by their peers. History teacher Lucas Snodgrass recognized this and helped develop a UTC leadership class that empowers students to develop and define key messaging for the UTC program and teach UTC principles to their peers.
UTC components provide additional supports to BGHS freshmen. The high school's Tiger Core Tutoring program helps students with classwork and provides another positive influence in their lives. The STRIPES mentoring program provides 30-minute lessons each month on a variety of life skills for a group of about 20 freshmen.
In athletics, every team and coach take a UTC seminar where they determine how the program’s principles apply to their specific sport. BGHS students and staff are also introducing UTC to parents and local business and community leaders at parent-teacher conferences, sporting events, and through community meetings.
“With the implementation of a UTC class that continually defines and redefines the guidelines and expectations, it becomes a living document,” said Athletic Director Matt Stanfill. “When students have a hand in creating the UTC message and then share that message with their classmates, it has a much more profound impact. It’s been incredibly effective and well-received by students and staff.”
“In just one word, UTC is about character, and people with character go out of their way to help others,” said Principal Hamilton. “UTC provides a blueprint for how we should strive to conduct ourselves, treat one another despite our differences, and live our lives on a daily basis.”