FAIRMONT - Fairmont is about to become the first "Top20 Community" in the nation, the result of a series of training sessions beginning today.
Fairmont Area High School will host the first two sessions of Top20 training, a method of creating positive thinking and strategies for use in and out of school.
Seventh- through 10th-graders will take classes today during the school day. A session for parents is scheduled for 6-8 p.m. tonight at the Performing Arts Center.
"It is all about making really good decisions and learning how to treat others," said high school principal Dave Paschke. "Those are the two giant topics.
Top20 refers to the idea that everyone thinks on two levels - top 20 and bottom 80.
"There are times in everyone's life that are not good for making decisions," Paschke said. "These times are the bottom 80."
The prospect of being the first community in the United States to have children, parents, and community leaders trained in the program has caught the eye of a researcher in Arizona.
"I am part of a movement of educators, business people and social scientists in Arizona promoting Social and Emotional Intelligence (EQ/IQ) in schools, homes, families and businesses," said Linda Levitt, the primary researcher with the EQ Academy Arizona. "We believe, and research shows, that [emotional intelligence] is far more important than IQ in success and happiness, and has positive effects of test scores, successes in business, health and personal well-being."
Paschke said the district's teachers had training in the method a couple of years ago, and have been using what they learned during the Cardinal Connections class period.
The ideas were so successful, the school decided to train students in a more intense session.
The Top20 website promises the sessions will help everyone identify when their thinking is moving into the Bottom 80 so they can change their thought patterns.
Topics for students include: Finding relevance in classes that don't seem appealing; dealing with conflict with a teacher or a classmate; procrastination and boredom; staying focused; building trust; and dealing with negativity.
For parents, topics include: Living "above the line" to be aware of and manage a child's thinking in order to make choices that result in more successful and positive experiences; helping them learn from mistakes and move outside their comfort zone; dealing with conflict more effectively; and learning to value confusion as a natural and necessary part of learning.
Levitt's research involves a pre-test and post-test survey, called The Resiliency Survey.
"All students in seventh through 12th grade have the opportunity to take it this week as the survey was sent to your school principal," Levitt said. "Parents and community members who attend the Top20 Training will also be asked to be surveyed before the training and we are so hopeful for their support. We will compare pre- and post-test data after the school year ends."
A focus group format will record participants' insight into their thought processes before and after the trainings.
Analysis of grades, test scores, bullying, crime, work ethics and absenteeism will be completed as well.
Identifying information is not recorded on the surveys.
Paschke said all parents are encouraged to come and learn about Top20 tonight. A free light meal will be served beginning at 5 p.m., with the program to follow.
"It is appropriate for everyone," he said.
In January, juniors and seniors at the school will participate in training along with community leaders.
"I was captivated by the idea of Fairmont being the first city in the USA embracing this movement," Levitt said. "I see you as being on the cutting edge of addressing building youth and adults - and therefore your community - from the inside out.
"Fairmont could be the prototype of rebuilding the reputations of small towns as havens of safety and support and nurturing the American spirit," she added.