"The door greeters offer students that first bright, sunny, happy face in the morning," said Jill LeCompte, R-4 School District instructional services director. "Some of our kids don't get that in the mornings because the morning routine is stressful or because there is no adult at home in the morning."
"The program has a positive impact on the kids for the rest of the day," added Jeanna Jones, who is helping organize the door greeter program. "You can see the change on their faces when they get off the bus. They really enjoy having someone there to greet them."
The Cassville Bright Futures door greeter program began at the start of the 2012-13 school year, but the idea has been circulating within the R-4 School District for over 10 years. Sue Lacey, former intermediate school counselor, originally approached LeCompte, who was then serving as intermediate school principal, with the idea in 2000.
"It was brought up again during a recent Bright Futures meeting," said LeCompte. "Joplin did something like this. It's a good start to get community members involved."
LeCompte said that Jones was instrumental in planning and implementing the new door greeter program. Jones sent invitation letters to each church located within the Cassville School District.
"Cassville Bright Futures provides a path for communities to engage everyone in a collective movement to develop relationships and channel resources supporting education and enabling children to achieve success," Jones wrote in the letter. "Here is an opportunity for you and your congregation to impact our community."
A handful of local church congregations have already answered the call to serve as door greeters at the school district's nine entrances.
"We need 45 people each week," said Jones. "We would love to see churches adopt a door for a day. The church would then be responsible for making sure there is someone at that door on their day of the week."
Door greeters are required to be at their designated entrance for less than a half hour, from 7:40 to 8:05 a.m., each morning.
Students, teachers, parents and community members have all expressed appreciation for the new door greeter program.
"Today, as a little boy got off the bus, his face was very sad, and his head hung low," said one greeter. "I looked him in the face, said 'good morning' and reached out my hand to give five.
"He stopped, looked up at me, looked at my hand, gave me five and got a huge grin on his face," continued the greeter. "Then, as he walked away, I said 'have a great day.' He said 'okay' and headed down the hall."
Another greeter said that one their first day at the middle school students looked confused, but after four days serving as a door greeter at the entrance, students began to respond with their own "good morning." Students have also begun responding with a "thank you" or "you too" when the greeter says, "have a good day."
Students have even shown appreciation for the new program by responding to greeters with hugs in addition to smiles.
"This is a huge blessing," said LeCompte. "The kids love it, and the teachers love it. It is a really great way to bring in members of our faith-based community to make a positive impact on our students."
"The people doing it love it too," added Jones. "Several of them have commented about how much it means to get hugs from kids they don't even know."
The R-4 District hopes to recruit enough volunteers to have at least one greeter at each of the school's nine entrances every day of the week. More volunteers are needed to reach this goal.
"We would love for this to be a program that continues throughout the entire school year," said LeCompte. "This doesn't just make a difference for the little kids. Some of our older kids need a positive face in the morning more than the little ones. It is making an impact on our students.
"We have done well with the Bright Futures program so far this year," continued LeCompte. "We have met all of the needs that we have been made aware of within 24 hours, which is the goal. We hope the door greeter program will allow more community members to see our needs so that they are more likely to respond to those needs."
In the future, the Cassville Bright Futures program will consider implementing mentoring and lunch buddy programs for students. These programs will also require volunteers from the local community.
All area community members are encouraged to "like" the Cassville Bright Futures page on Facebook.
For more information on Cassville Bright Futures or the new door greeter program, call LeCompte at 847-5573.