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Brundidge, Ala., children are being introduced to The WhyTry Program

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Brundidge, Ala., children are being introduced to The WhyTry Program.

Photo of children participating in the Why Try ProgramPhoto of children participating in the Why Try Program

In Brundidge, Ala., children are for the first time being offered more than the usual team-sports opportunities. This summer they're being introduced to The WhyTry Program, a hands-on curriculum that helps youths overcome challenges and improve outcomes in the areas of truancy, behavior and academics.

Originally designed for at-risk kids, WhyTry has been applied in mental health and correctional facilities, but now reaches most of its participants in K-12 school and after-school settings, teaching critical social and emotional principles through visual components reinforced by music, art, journal writing and physical activities. Among the 10 principles covered are turning challenges into positive motivation, resisting negative peer pressure and making decisions based on potential consequences. Team building is fostered during one activity in which 10 or 12 participants surround a square taped to the ground and filled with cards numbered 1 through 30. Participants first strategize how best to take turns entering the box and touching all the numbers in sequence and then are timed implementing their plan.

Brundidge, which saw more than 60 children ages 5 through 16 sign up for summer recreation this year, may be the first recreation program in the nation to incorporate WhyTry. "This program has been very positive, and we like trying to help kids wherever we can," says Bruce Bushnell, a former high school counselor who serves as WhyTry's vice president overseeing training. "That's not our number-one target, but I like the idea."

Community leaders in Brundidge see it that way, too. There will still be ball sports and field trips to the nearby Troy Recreation Center this summer, but the curriculum is also incorporating motivational speakers, as well as presentations on healthy eating. "Our program is not just a come-and-play kind of program," Isabell Boyd, a former city council member who helped initiate the program, told The Troy Messenger. "We want the children who participate in the summer recreation program to have fun and also have experiences that will benefit them in school and in life."

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