May 2011

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Dell Brooks, a high school teacher and master BrainWise instructor, is the recipient of the Rotary Volunteer in Community Service Award for 2011. The award is given by the 80 Rotary Clubs that comprise Rotary District 5450 and acknowledges outstanding service to the community by a non-Rotarian.

Brooks has been teaching BrainWise for four years at Colorado High School Charter (CHSC), an alternative Denver Public School for students who have had difficulty succeeding in a traditional education system. The students at CHSC face daunting odds for achieving academic success: 80 percent of the student population qualifies for free or reduced lunches; 95 percent of students come from single parent households or live with a non-custodial parent; and 100 percent of the students need help to graduate from high school. Dr. Patricia Gorman Barry, BrainWise founder, says of Brooks, “Dell is a champion for those students.”

According to Dr. Barry, “Dell teaches BrainWise to all students at CHSC, and more than 80 percent graduate from high school, a phenomenal achievement for the hardest-to-reach of all teens.” She notes that graduates often return to thank Brooks and share their success stories. “We are pleased that Dell’s outstanding work with students is being recognized, Dr. Barry adds.”

Currently, Brooks is piloting an innovative approach that is helping his students gain thinking skills and make responsible decisions. Thanks to a grant from the Adolph Coors Foundation, fourteen CHSC students were matched with 28 adult volunteers who reinforce BrainWise skills through text messages to the students. Each student is paired with two mentors. The mentors meet monthly with the student at school, and send weekly text messages reminding the student to use BrainWise thinking skills (See related article: “Teaming Up For Teens,” brainwise-plc.org/blog, December 2010). “Mentoring has been shown to encourage behavioral change in other areas,” Brooks said, “and appears to be effective when it comes to making positive life choices.”

When asked about his work with the BrainWise program, Brooks says, “BrainWise gives me tools to teach these young people about the brain, helping them learn skills to stop and take responsibility for their behaviors. The concepts in BrainWise need to be practiced by everyone, and the program’s 10 Wise Ways should become the foundation for teaching and learning critical thinking skills.”

Rotary District 5450 presented the award to Brooks at a celebration dinner held April 29th in Loveland, Colorado.