David Trice is rehearsing for an important presentation.
To do so, he faces an especially curious audience.
“Why are you going to a middle school?”
“What are you talking about?”
The questions are posed by Taylor, Trice’s 8-year-old daughter.
This father-daughter conversation gives Trice a chance to share the importance of volunteerism. He gives his time to CHOICES, a series of life skills workshops he teaches at Lake Hamilton Junior High.
“It’s refreshing to be part of the action,” said Trice. “I enjoy being in the classroom.”
Founded in Seattle, CHOICES is an interactive program that helps middle schoolers understand the importance of making positive education and life decisions. The curriculum addresses time and money management, goal-setting and life skills, among other subjects.
“CHOICES is a well-titled program,” said Trice, Regions’ Market Executive for Hot Springs, Arkansas, and a Commercial Banking Leader. “Every example, every activity directly ties into the power of students making choices for their future.”
One CHOICES activity addresses the most impactful decision high school students will make: graduation. Middle schoolers participate in a simulation offering insights around the consequences of not earning their high school diploma. During the exercise, students drop out of school in the 11th grade, move out of their parent’s home, secure a job and try to pay bills on a limited income.
Students begin to realize that the next four years can affect the rest of their lives.
David Trice, Regions’ Market Executive for Hot Springs, Arkansas
“There are a lot of aha expressions that occur during that activity,” said Trice. “Students begin to realize that the next four years can affect the rest of their lives.”
Focusing on the power of the present is a reinforced message of CHOICES, with students reciting a quote from author James Hollis during workshop sessions:
“I am not what happened to me. I am what I choose to become.”
So, how did CHOICES become a Hot Springs school program? Rewind to 2018 and Trice’s role as Education Development Chair for the National Park Rotary Club. The group was seeking a new project to support.
After researching CHOICES’ unique, activity-based approach to help students gain a better grasp of the lasting impact around decisions they make, Trice believed it offered a well-suited fit. Michelle Ratcliff and Gary Troutman were also on board in bringing the program to Hot Springs. The three established a partnership among the Rotary Club, Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce and Regions to launch CHOICES, with the bank funding the program the first year and Rotary securing grant funding to cover it during year two.
“This is a partnership where everybody’s pulling their own weight and then some,” said Ratcliff, economic development manager with the Hot Springs Chamber and current president of the National Park Rotary Club. “Regions has shown a commitment to serving as a true community partner and not just a bank on a corner.”
Troutman, CEO of the Hot Springs Chamber, notes the impact of CHOICES is already extending beyond Lake Hamilton classrooms in its brief duration.
“Our Chamber and the Hot Springs Metro Partnership believe in this program so much, that we adopted it as part of our workforce education plan,” said Troutman. “We are honored the National Park Rotary and Regions have chosen to partner with us in making a difference in the lives of our local youth.”
Less than two years after launching in Hot Springs, CHOICES is making a difference, now serving 300 – and counting – 8th graders. The program is in demand, with two schools currently on a waitlist as additional volunteers are recruited.
Ratcliff, who coordinates and trains CHOICES volunteers and teaches workshop sessions herself, is grateful to Trice for the time he devotes.
“David has a real thoughtfulness around service,” said Ratcliff. “He truly cares about these students.”
And at Lake Hamilton Junior High, CHOICES is generating thoughtful feedback from both faculty and students.
Terri Crain, career and technical education teacher at the school, says the CHOICES program enhances traditional classroom instruction. “This provides real-world examples our students can relate to,” said Crain.
The takeaways 8th graders have shared in post-workshop surveys?
- “They taught me to focus on what I want to do in the future and how to get there.”
- “They talked about things that matter. They taught me to put things that matter first.”
- “They taught us that grades are important. They gave us examples of making bad decisions.”
As Rotary, the Chamber and Regions continue their CHOICES collaboration, Trice looks forward to more home rehearsals with Taylor to help ensure he’s prepared for future presentations at Lake Hamilton and additional schools. And Ratcliff looks forward to recruiting and training additional volunteers to serve more students.
“Eighth grade is such a pivotal time,” said Ratcliff. “Thanks to CHOICES, we can plant some seeds and encourage students to really think about their lives. We can have a stake in their futures.”