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Outstanding BRIDGES School Award

Newport Harbor High School

Debbie Pogue, NHHS BRIDGES Contact Teacher

School students often mirror the discourse they see in society. As the national election ramped up in 2016, people all over America discussed and debated their perspectives and beliefs. Newport Harbor High School (NHHS) students did the same, but some of these diverse viewpoints caused a deep divide on campus. The school faced the same dilemma as families and friends all over the country. How do we remain respectful, understand each other and maintain relationships despite our different viewpoints?

Under the leadership of Debbie Pogue, the BRIDGES contact teacher at NHHS, and with the help of teachers, staff and student leaders, the BRIDGES program began to work with hundreds of students, listening and trying to repair relationships that had been compromised. Through weeks of restorative circles, students shared, apologized and developed guidelines for respectful relationships.

NHHS school leaders developed an Inclusion Council that meets monthly where teachers share strategies that promote inclusivity and respect as well as plan projects that bring the campus community together.

The BRIDGES program teachers and students stepped up their campaign efforts to bring the school community together. BRIDGES organized a “Speed Friendships” event, with over 100 student participants, which gave the young people an opportunity to meet someone new and learn more about them. They developed a campaign, ‘Bringing Unity to Our Sailor Community,’ which aimed to strengthen and promote social bonds between students. And BRIDGES leaders recruited students to attend the Peer Mediation training that certifies students to become peer mediators.

Newport Harbor High School rose to the challenge of reconciling a student body torn apart by dissenting viewpoints and has set an example of how people can come together, through leadership, listening, and understanding to build a stronger community.

About the Award

The Community-Policing Award recognizes a department or officer that has tailored creative strategies to provide outstanding service to and build positive relationships with their communities.

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