KETTERING, Ohio (WDTN) — If you ask Kettering fourth-grader Agam Iser about her favorite part of summer camp at the Kettering Rec Center, she’ll tell you: “Probably everything we do!”

One reason for that is her counselors, like 2022 Fairmont grad Andy Glasser.

“When you tell them that they’re doing a good job it definitely does make an impact,” Glasser said.

One goal here is to create a positive environment — the same one they experience every day in Kettering City Schools.

“Since elementary, middle, and throughout high school, we followed three rules,” Glasser said. “Being safe, being respectful, being responsible. And that carried into camps and so now I’m trying to teach that to the campers.”

Safe. Respectful. Responsible.

They’re more than just words.

It’s a way of communicating — using positive instruction instead of negative — called Positive Behavior Intervention Support, or PBIS for short.

Dr. Carrie Hennessey, MTSS Coordinator for Kettering City Schools explained the concept.

“If we’re getting ready to go to the library or go to the cafeteria, here are the expectations of how we’re safe,” Hennessey said. “How we’re responsible. How we’re respectful. Before we get there, to prevent an incident before it happens.”

Hennessey helped Kettering City Schools implement PBIS language six years ago.

The idea is simple. Instead of listing the things you don’t want kids to do, you talk about the behavior you do want to see.

“Safe: We walk with our hands to our sides,” Hennessey said. “We are walking not running. Those kinds of things. And how are we respectful and responsible when we get there? We clean up after ourselves.”

Now, the language is spreading.

The City of Kettering is adopting it, along with other community partners they call “stakeholders.”

It’s part of the “We are Kettering” initiative, led by Director of Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Arts for the city, Mary Beth O’Dell.

“We thought… we have a responsibility as a community to improve kids’ lives as well,” O’Dell said. “And why not use an already established program in school and roll it out to the community?”

Professor and Distinguished University Scholar at the University of Louisville, Dr. Terry Ccott, is helping with the rollout. He says getting an entire community on board is something that—to his knowledge—has never been done before.

The hardest part about doing any of these things is getting everybody to buy in and do it. Scott emphasized it’s not about empty praise.

“When they say two plus two is five, you gotta say, ‘You’re wrong,’ Scott said. “So you can’t make this happen by… throwing flowers around and being really lovey all the time.”

Instead, it’s about setting them up to succeed. Scott said the research shows each time a child is successful, it increases the chance of another success. The same is true of failure.

And kids know the difference.

“We don’t want to just keep saying, “No, don’t do this, don’t do that, you’re doing the wrong thing,” counselor Andy Glasser said. “You flip it. Point out what is going well.”

“It makes me feel like I want to do that stuff more because it makes me feel good,” camper Agam Iser said.

If you live or work in Kettering, or even elsewhere and would like to learn more, you can head to the City of Kettering website to learn more.