FRONT ROYAL – Warren County students have a new way of spreading positive thoughts and attitudes in their schools through a program called Project Positive, which was started by Tina Culbreath, co-founder of the I'm Just Me Movement.
Project Positive is a product of the I'm Just Me Movement, a nonprofit organization Culbreath started with her husband Rodney in Winchester to help develop student readiness to work in teams, live together, interact and develop leadership skills, and its relationship with the My Opportunity for Reinforcement and Enrichment (MORE) program – an initiative involving the Warren Coalition and Warren County schools to promote healthy interaction between students.
Culbreath said she launched Project Positive earlier in the 2018-2019 school year to offer students an opportunity to "be a catalyst for inclusion and more diversity in schools and to be more accepting of others.”
The students participating in MORE came up with the idea for Project Positive, Culbreath said.
“[I’m Just Me Movement] provides mentorship to the individuals in the MORE program and the students decided they wanted to come up with a project that could make someone’s day and could spread positive messages throughout the school,” Culbreath said.
She said Project Positive, which has 36 students in the program, aims to curb bullying that has plagued middle school students.
“It’s important because of bullying that they can bring inclusive and positive messages to the school, and they realized they could do that through their voices, and they weren’t quite sure how they wanted to do that,” she said.
Culbreath said that Project Positive also focuses on the topic of suicide. She said suicide is the second leading cause of death among middle and high school students in the U.S.
“It is quite concerning to see the second-leading cause of deaths among kids their ages is suicide,” she said. “Some of it is because they want to be accepted; some of it is because they can’t really be who they are. I think we have a whole dynamic when you add social media, and that’s made it more problematic.”
Joyce Jenkins-Wimmer, program coordinator for MORE and the former college access network coordinator for Warren County public schools, said that Culbreath’s Project Positive program was referred to her because of the work Culbreath was doing with I’m Just Me Because.
“She told us about their program about mentoring and promoting positive interaction,” Wimmer said. “Nowhere do we feel that’s needed more than at the middle school because it’s a really challenging time for students and it’s an opportunity for them to get positive messages from adults to interact positively with adults and one another.”
Wimmer said that Culbreath’s programs offer opportunities for kids to work together and talk about positive things happening.
“It’s to help these kids to know that what they’re getting is not just important, but, as ambassadors in their school and ambassadors of change, they can create an opportunity for other kids to feel more positive and to act in positive ways,” she said.
While Project Positive just started this school year, Wimmer said that she has seen progress due to the program.
“One of the things that’s been interesting is that, as part of Project Positive, the kids start the day with meditation,” she said. “We’ve learned that centering yourself and calming your inner self is a strategy to be more positive and to act in more positive ways.”
Culbreath said that she hopes to add more to Project Positive in the future to help spread its message.
“I personally think we should do more assembly-style presentations in schools,” she said. “I think once every year, schools should really have a mandatory way of having messages of inclusion and diversity throughout the schools.”
For more information on the I’m Just Me Movement, visit http://www.imjustmemovement.org.