YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – A Youngstown City School teacher has created a new program to help with the attendance rate, and so far, it’s working. 

Venus Cataldo is a science teacher at East High School. She said she felt compelled to find a way to encourage the kids to improve their attendance.

“I went off of my experience when I was in high school, and I wanted to be there. I based this idea off of what I experienced in high school, and I created the Bear Bucks,” she said.

Students are given Bear Bucks for things like attendance, good grades, athletics and overall performance in school. The students can trade those bucks in weekly for snacks and school gear. They also have a bank account where they can accumulate the funds.

Cataldo says this also teaches them financial responsibility.

“It’s making responsible decisions. Like, once this money is gone, you can’t get it back. So that’s what this is about,” she said.

Assistant Principal Adam Loudin says it brings the school joy to see Cataldo go above and beyond in creating this program. He says it’s already having a positive effect.

“From March, our building-wide attendance increased by two percentage points and our chronic absenteeism reduced by 9.7%,” he said.

“I’ve seen a change in culture, in school spirit,” said Debra Campbell, school principal. “It’s more of a community now. It feels like, almost like a family.”

On May 19, the school will celebrate Bear Day in which the students will be able to use their Bear Bucks to purchase items. Cataldo says they are encouraging local businesses and organizations to become a part of it by sponsoring and donating items for the kids to buy.