New York State School Boards Association honors Randolph Academy as ‘Champion of Change’

Randolph Academy, a public school district which supports, empowers and educates children struggling with various emotional and mental health disabilities, was honored this week by the New York State School Boards Association (NYSSBA) with its “Champions of Change” award.

The distinction comes following Randolph Academy’s launch of a new internship program in partnership with the Department of Sociocultural & Justice Sciences at the State University of New York at Fredonia. The program, which began in the fall of 2020, connects Fredonia’s Criminal Justice majors with Randolph Academy’s professionals and students, many of whom have been exposed to law enforcement and related personnel at a young age.

“Because of the challenging life circumstances which many of our students face, we’re developing a connection with these young professionals so that they might better understand portions of the judicial and social work sectors as they relate to childhood education, safety and development,” said Randolph Academy Superintendent Danielle Cook.

Randolph Academy Restorative Justice Coordinator Laura Heeter and SUNY Fredonia Criminal Justice Lecturer Patrick Johnson were honored by the New York State School Boards Association for the successful Criminal Justice Internship program they created.

The program connects the academy’s students with future law enforcement professionals in a way that makes them more relatable and human. It also benefits the interns, who see the benefits of Randolph Academy’s Normative Culture, a sociological method using positive peer pressure to influence behavior rather than a system of rules. They’re also participating in the academy’s Restorative Justice system, an alternative to suspensions and other punitive approaches.

“We’ve really enjoyed working with our interns as they navigate their career paths and determine what settings are right for them,” said Randolph Academy Restorative Justice Coordinator Laura Heeter. “They’re learning about behavioral approaches that are especially effective for children struggling with challenging emotional and personal scenarios, and we hope they remember these lessens when they become professionals.”

“Every once in a while, it is nice to get a pat on the back, especially when the recognition is unexpected,” said NYSSBA Executive Director Robert S. Schneider. “NYSSBA initiated a program, which we call the Champions of Change, in order to do just that.”

Patrick Johnson, a Fredonia Criminal Justice faculty member and retired warden of the Chautauqua County state prison, was also on hand to take part in the recognition. NYSSBA Area 3 Director Christine Schnars presented Randolph Academy with a banner to display in its hallway.