A new student group at Prairie High School is helping to transform the school’s culture, one act of kindness at a time. The PHS “Crimson Crew” is a student-led school spirit group that organizes a wide variety of activities intended to show love, support, and appreciation for their peers, teachers, and community members in the Battle Ground Public Schools district.

You’ll find the Crimson Crew doling out high fives and candy in the hallways to help spread joy among students. They gather to write and collect handwritten messages of appreciation from students to place in teachers’ inboxes. They show up at school sporting events and performances that typically don’t get many spectators and cheer like die-hard fanatics. The Crimson Crew also stays late to clean up the bleachers after football games, are helping district middle schools deliver their anti-bullying messages, and even showed up early one morning at Battle Ground High School to surprise the teachers and staff of their district rival high school with free coffee and pastries.

The Crimson Crew greets PHS students with candy and high fives to start the school day

“Saint Francis of Assisi said ‘for it is in giving that we receive,’ and I can’t think of a more succinct guiding principle for the Crimson Crew,” said Jason Castro, Prairie’s athletic director and one of the staff members most heavily involved in the formation of the group. “We have a phenomenal group of students, and I am so proud of how the Crimson Crew has taken off and is helping to give back and foster a positive atmosphere around campus.”

The Crimson Crew naturally evolved from a school-wide initiative that started last February called Inspire Week. Inspired by a popular national program “Dude, Be Nice”, teachers and staff at Prairie selected more than 100 students to come up with ideas for projects that could help impact school culture in a meaningful way.

After a highly successful inaugural campaign, many of the students from last year’s Inspire Week returned this year, forming a more permanent student group and adopting the Crimson Crew moniker. Since then, the ideas have continued to expand, and Prairie will have three Inspire Weeks during the 2019-20 school year.

“Inspire Week has had a tremendously positive influence at Prairie,” said security guard Mandy Gardea. “We got genuine buy-in from the campus community last year, and the student leaders who came back this year have taken control and are running with it. I love seeing our kids taking ownership, being engaged, and showing up everyday to support their peers.”

In addition to Jason Castro and Mandy Gardea, Social Studies teacher Dawn Rowe, Dean of Students Colin Rush, and Graduation Coaches Rosemary Galanter and Lori Engelking form the staff nucleus behind the Crimson Crew. The staff members help organize the Crimson Crew’s activities, but the students are the real driving force behind the success of the program.

“With Inspire Week and the Crimson Crew, our hope is that we can set an example for students who are not just going through the motions, living day-by-day to go home, get our homework done, wake up and do it all over again,” said 10th grader Kyah Hamsley. “We are coming together to spread joy, kindness and unity, and we want to inspire students to spend these four years making a difference in the lives of their peers and teachers. We’re super excited to steer our school culture toward love and to help break the norms and stereotypical image of high school.”

School-wide initiatives like Inspire Week and student groups that are focused on instilling a positive school culture are closely aligned with the district’s emphasis on social-emotional learning that seeks to transform schools into supportive, successful learning environments.