HIGH LIFE: A Weekly Forum for High School Students : Program’s Aim Is Self-Respect

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; <i> Ginny Chang is a junior at Santa Ana Valley High School, where she is editor of the Falcon student newspaper, a counselor with PAL and senior class representative to Key Club. </i>

“Self-Esteem,” “High View of Life” and “Accepting Who You Are” are just three of the lessons that will be presented as part of the Respect Yourself program at Santa Ana Valley High School this year.

Respect Yourself was introduced last year in an effort to help students meet life’s challenges, enhance their self-esteem and teach them skills for setting goals.

The program, named after the 1971 hit song by the Staple Singers, was implemented upon the suggestion of students Donaji Guerrera, Jenny Dang, Victor Madrigal and Hanh Nguyen--members of the school’s student government who attended a Peer Assistant Leadership camp together during the summer of ’89.

“PAL camp was full of positive energy, and we were amazed by how much enthusiasm the people had,” Guerrera said. “We wanted the same thing for Valley. It was just an idea to promote self-esteem.”


Mary Breskin, Santa Ana Valley assistant principal, developed the program’s curricula, along with a steering committee of staff members and students.

“I think that it’s important for our school to stand for positive values,” Breskin said, “and for each student to know that we approve of their choice to live a drug-free life.”

Respect Yourself lessons and activities began last month and will continue through early March. Every Wednesday, at least 15 minutes during third-period classes is devoted to lessons developed by the program’s self-esteem committee. This year’s theme, focusing on responsible decision-making, is STAR (Stop, Think, Act and Review).

“A program such as Respect Yourself is an excellent way to teach our children positive attitudes and success-oriented behavior,” said English teacher Sophia Theoharopoulos, who heads this year’s program.

“A sound code of ethics is essential for success,” she said. “We as leaders of our community should not leave it to chance and hope the students ‘pick it up’ somewhere. I have a feeling that other schools will be eager to follow in our footsteps.”

During a recent lesson on setting goals, students discussed the differences between long- and short-term goals. Parallels were drawn between goals and road maps: Both serve as guides to where people want to go in life. Students were asked to focus on what needed to be done to realize their dreams and ambitions.

In addition to lessons, a popular on-campus activity of the program is Button Day. Students were given Respect Yourself buttons at the beginning of the school year and are asked to wear them on Button Day.

The Button Mobile visits a classroom at random during third period for prize drawings.


“I think it (the program) is a good idea because people need to learn how to respect themselves for who they are,” said Windy Rowe, a sophomore at the school.

In January, English and English as a second language students will participate in an essay-writing contest. For their efforts, each will receive a Respect Yourself pencil, and winners will receive gift certificates.

On Valentine’s Day, another prize drawing will be held for movie passes, calculators, T-shirts, sweat shirts, gift certificates and a gold ring.

The week before, each teacher gets to hand out 20 “Respect Checks” to students who have demonstrated respectful actions in their classroom. Recipients will deposit their checks in the Respect Bank during lunch throughout the week, which will culminate with the drawing from the bank.


To reward students this month and again in March, teachers will be handing out certificates of appreciation for attendance, effort, improvement and enthusiastic class participation.

The Respect Yourself program got high marks last year, Breskin said, and is expected to continue to do well: “The program is having more impact. It’s still growing. We are able to provide more assembly programs, and students and staff are more committed to the program because they know it’s here to stay.”