Community Members Make a Difference by Joining PLSD Positivity Patrol

PoPP volunteer Denise Johnson greets students C. Johnson and Z. Stokes between classes at Ridgeview STEM Junior High.
Photo by Rachel Scofield

March 16, 2023
By Heath Scofield, Pickerington Online Intern

Have you ever seen a friendly stranger greeting you in the hallways of your school? If you are a junior high or high school student in Pickerington Schools, chances are you have met one of the Parents on Positivity Patrol (PoPP).

“Parents on Positivity Patrol brings together students, staff and community members by building relationships and trust with one another,” said Sydney Dillard, Ridgeview STEM Junior High’s Dean of Students. “PoPPs serve as positive presences in our schools, they brighten our students and staff members’ days, they cheer our students on, help to support them when in need and make meaningful impacts in their lives by helping to build a positive culture and climate. Their overall presence makes a difference, and our students love seeing their familiar faces and having someone they can count on and trust.”

PoPP is a volunteer program that was launched in the 2021-22 school year to help foster a positive and safe environment in the high schools. PoPP volunteers spend a few hours a week monitoring hallways, restrooms and cafeterias during school hours. Their main goal is to spread positivity and kindness among students and staff.

The schools provide each volunteer with a safety plan and a walkie talkie to contact staff if behavior requires intervention.

PoPP expanded to the junior highs this school year.

“We want all of our students to feel like everyone knows their name, they are valued and that we look forward to seeing them every day,” says Alesia Gillison, Pickerington Schools Chief Academic Officer.

One volunteer, Rochae (Shay) Price, has students at both Lakeview Junior High and Pickerington High School North. “One of the reasons that I started volunteering is that I heard a lot, ‘We need help! We need positive reinforcement.’ I said, “Okay, we can do this.”

PoPP volunteers Denise Johnson and Jason Coleman take a photo with their sons, C. Johnson and C. Coleman. Both parents said their boys were a little wary at first about having their parents in their school building but that was short-lived.
Photo by Rachel Scofield

It’s been a great experience and it’s really nice to get to know kids other than your own and actually make a difference.  When you’re not there, they look for you. They’re like, ‘Hey, you weren’t here last Friday’ and I tell them, ‘Yeah, I had to work’. I always tell them that this is something I enjoy doing but our schedules don’t always align.”

Price believes that the schools appreciate the help.

“All the staff have been really supportive,” Price said. “I can tell you that all the principals really do value us being there and so do the administration and duty aides.”

In addition to being friendly faces, PoPP members help move the students who like to stick around the hallways.

“We hang out whenever the bell rings to make sure kids get to class,” said PoPP volunteer Denise Johnson. “We assist when they are lingering and not where they are supposed to be.”

Johnson, said that the PoPP program gave her an opportunity to give back to the community, keep an eye on her son and become a role model in a school where very few people of color are employed.

Her niece, seventh grade student Nylah Wilson, appreciates what her aunt and the other PoPP volunteers do for her school.

“Kids like it when people who are older walk up and give fives or hugs or something,” said Wilson.

Ben Goates and his wife, Amanda, hang out with the Ridgeview kids at lunch and play games. With 900 students, Ridgeview is the most crowded school in the district.

“That many students in a lower capacity building is hard to maintain,” Goates said. “Teachers do not have the time for one-on-one or one-on-three interactions which forge deeper relationships with the kids.”

Observing every week, the PoPPs have suggested small changes that the administrators have taken to heart.

Jason Coleman greets students on their way to class.
Photo by Rachel Scofield

For instance, this past fall, the volunteers noticed that most lunchtime disturbances at Ridgeview were because kids accidentally bumped into each other as they tried to navigate around circular tables. Goates said that the PoPPs suggested that the cafeteria switch to rectangular tables.  The administrators took the suggestion and now decibel levels at lunchtime are half what they were before.

The PoPP turned out to be very helpful to Ridgeview students after the shooting that occurred on February 2 at their school. See: Ridgeview Shooting – What Happened?

That morning, administrators gave PoPP volunteers the opportunity to leave.

“They decided to stay and help the kids,” said Johnson. “They said, ‘Hey, we’re not leaving you guys,’ because they knew the teachers and staff needed them.”

According to Goates, “When everyone returned the following Wednesday, the district turned to the PoPPs to ‘keep an eye out’ for students in need of additional support. The kids’ reactions ran the spectrum from less concerned to pretty scared.’”

The district needs more community members to join the PoPP program.

“We are always looking for more parents who want to make a difference in our schools,” Johnson said. “It’s a rewarding experience that benefits not only the students but also ourselves.”

To become a member of PoPP, volunteers must be vetted (background checked) and have completed three hours of training (cultural sensitivity, safety protocols and verbal de-escalation skills).

To apply to be part of the PoPP team, the form is available at:

If you would like to know more about the program, please contact Pickerington Schools Public Relations Assistant Michelle Richardson at Richardson coordinates the PoPP program.

Ridgeview STEM Junior High’s Dean of Student Sydney Dillard (second from right) meets with just a few of the PoPP who serve in her building – Denise Johnson, Amanda Goates, Ben Goates and Jason Coleman.