ROXBURY, NJ -  Students and staff from Nixon Elementary School recently shared with the school board how they are making the school a cohesive and accepting place for all students.

Nixon Principal Danielle Lynch told the board that the staff believes students  are empowered to flourish in the 21st century by "being the change.” She said students and teachers are taking the approach that if they want things to be better they all must be involved to make that happen.

Fourth-grade student Oliver Hargreaves, who is also Early Act Club president and involved in other school groups, told the board, "I think it is important to be the change because it is very easy to let other people make changes and you just sit back."

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Hargreaves said, "things will never improve in our schools and communities if we don’t do anything about it and actually participate," adding, "I think it is really great that I can help be the change at Nixon, and that there are so many different ways to get involved.”

Lynch, joined by other students and staff, described a few of the different programs that are helping to make Nixon School and the community a better place. For example, this year Nixon School developed a "Green Team" to help with the district’s sustainable schools initiative.

Kayla Mackey, third grader and Green Team student ambassador, explained the work of the team and its importance. “We need to help our environment and start recycling any bottles and cans we find," she said. "Picking up trash is important too because if animals mistake trash for food, they might die.”

The team launched a “Re-Thinking Recycling” initiative, aided by a $2,000 Sustainable Jersey for Schools grant. The program will be supported in many ways including the PTA’s first-ever Green Fair in October.

Kelly Blessing, a first-grade teacher, shared how at Nixon School they take pride in teaching both academics and character education. “As a result of the board’s support, we were able to launch the Nixon Early Act Club for our third and fourth graders,” she said.

Students who participate in this Roxbury Rotary-based club perform acts of kindness that involve giving to others.

“By participating in these activities, the act of giving becomes real to the students," said Blessing. "They learn how other people feel in relation to their own feelings and how it feels to give their time to support an important cause. Through the Early Act Club, we hope to make the process of giving a natural part of their lives because when being generous feels personal and gratifying than children grow up to be kind, charitable, and giving adults.”

The school has held various fundraisers for donating money and items for the Giving Tree, the Breast Cancer Awareness Fundraiser and candy collection for the soldiers.

The board was told that much of the cohesive nature and welcoming environment at Nixon is due to the school's Culture and Climate Committee (CCC) where the staff teaches students to “Be the Change” and encourages them to seek appropriate responses and reactions to situations that could otherwise become negative.

School Guidance Counselor Jessica Mooney said “this mindset inspires students to be the best version of themselves while promoting positive interactions with one another.”

Two years ago, the CCC shared with the board highlights of things being done at the school to promote a positive school environment for all. Since then, the committee expanded its work to include the mini-JAM in collaboration with the Roxbury High School mini-THON, Movement Mondays, Words of Wisdom Wednesdays, Bucket Filling, and the Peaceful School Bus.

The Peaceful School Bus initiative works to improve student behavior on busses.

Katie Szatkiewsicz, a fourth-grade teacher,  told the board that “when students have a voice and take ownership for, and in their school environment they will have pride and respect for their school, from the teachers to the physical property within the building. It is important for students to feel their school is a place that they can consider and call a home. Their voice is part of the decisions that are made for our school environment.”