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How 'Strive for Five' is Changing the Game

Students from Terry Redlin Elementary read a book with Principal Ryan DeGraff

Sometimes, showing up is the hardest part.

For kids at Terry Redlin Elementary School, this especially rings true.

Located in the heart of our community, Terry Redlin serves children living at St. Francis House, Bishop Dudley House and Union Gospel Mission.

Walking down its hallways, it’s easy to see that students are energetic and eager to learn. Sometimes, however, life’s challenges can make learning complicated.

At Terry Redlin, attendance had been a key issue concerning school leaders. In 2015, 32 percent of its students missed 10 or more days of school.

“Simply put, if children are not in school, they do not learn,” said Terry Redlin Principal Ryan DeGraff.

So in 2016, DeGraff set out to do something. He approached the Community Foundation with a plan to create an incentive program to encourage students and their families to make attendance a priority. His idea was to reward students who attended school all five days by adding their names into a drawing to receive a prize. Recognizing that attendance starts at home, prizes would be geared not only as incentives for students, but also for their families.

Calling it a creative idea that served an important need, the Community Foundation was excited to award Terry Redlin a Spot Grant to help launch the Strive for Five program.

In its first two years, the Strive for Five program has achieved some remarkable results. Since the program began, students have attended school 1,230 more days and last year nearly 60 students improved their attendance by one week or more.

Eight-year-old Jamison, a third-grader at Terry Redlin, is just one of many students who have been impacted by the Strive for Five program. Jamison said going to school every day is important, “so you can learn.”

His can-do attitude is why his teacher, Chelsea Johnson, called him a “wonderful member of the class.”

“He is always looking for ways to include other students in games and activities. He asks to sit by or help students who are struggling or are left out,” Johnson said. “Whenever I need help, I can count on Jamison to volunteer eagerly!”

DeGraff called the grant from the Community Foundation a gamechanger for Terry Redlin students.

“On behalf of our staff and our students, I want to express our appreciation to the Community Foundation and its generous donors for this support,” said DeGraff. “The more our students are in school, the more they can learn – making them even better prepared to succeed after graduation and beyond.”

Great job, Terry Redlin Elementary School. Keep on Striving!

Photo Above: Principal Ryan DeGraff reads to students at Terry Redlin Elementary School in Sioux Falls.

Photo by Emily Spartz Weerheim.