AmeriCorps Health Service Member, Denver Kohls, Implements Character
Traits Interventions Directly Related to COVID-19 Student Isolation

Denver Kohls incorporated educational experiences using role play, positive nouns that targeted desired or corrective behavior, and active listening to intervene and mitigate negative behavior attributed to students who were isolated from their peers during COVID-19 shut-downs.

She was assigned to two elementary schools in the Prescott Unified School District (PUSD) working with grades K-4 students who were experiencing problems returning to their classrooms. Manifesting are social skills problems that are formative skills achieved socially. The K-4 children have been at home with teens and others and picked up inappropriate behavior and acted out what they have learned. They were supervised less, and it was coming out in their behavior – foundational problems, like sharing, caring, and including others in activities.

“Children do not understand that what they say and do can affect someone else. Bullying, name-calling, and space invading are just some of the behavior problems displayed after the children returned to school from the COVID-19 breaks. The behavior problems took many forms. For the students who bullied others, the bully-student sat with three other students to hear what each was saying and sometimes the bully was surprised, not realizing the effect they were having on their classmates,” Denver said.

The way that Denver organized her interventions was to meet one-on-one or in small groups with students who needed help with behavior, academics, and was also on-call based on need. Kohls said she was used to working with middle and high school children and that K-4 children have a separate set of issues based on the fact that they are in their formative years. “There was a 3-year grant to hire AmeriCorps because of COVID-19 because the children were having trouble coming back to school,” said Denver.

She said she did not meet with parents directly. The “Character Counselor” met directly with the parents of the youngsters who needed it. Denver drafted reports and implemented “character traits” exercises weekly. For instance, she would assign one student to use nouns and words that represented “courage,” while a classmate was assigned the character trait of “kindness,” and a third student was assigned the character trait of “perseverance.” “The mission of the character trait role play is for students to act out as many examples of how each character trait can look,” she added. She said that the next week, each student acted out how they showed the character trait and that she had a reward system in place for incentives.

Arizona Serve VISTA and Health Corps Program Manager, Brandon White, said “Denver was assigned the position of Student Well-Being Mentor for Prescott Unified School District. As a program manager for Arizona Serve, I witnessed her dedication and work ethic firsthand and regularly admired her ability to connect with students and staff in an impactful manner. She was able to add capacity to their agency in a variety of ways that have proved invaluable. Denver was an excellent member of our first Public Health AmeriCorps cohort in Prescott, Arizona, and I wish her the best in her future endeavors.”

Denver Kohls said that she is using her end-of-service education award to take training as a Death Doula – end-of-life service work ranging from logistical planning for the time before, during and after death; conducting rituals or comforting practices; helping the dying person reflect on their life and values; and explaining the human functions of dying to caregivers while assisting the hospice team. She begins training as a Death Doula on May 20. Kohls had been working in the healthcare industry before returning to AmeriCorps.

She will return to California where she was born to start her next assignment as a Substance Intervention Specialist, especially those suffering from abusing alcohol and drugs. As her eyes filled with tears, Kohls said, “I have lost two brothers to substance abuse in the last two years and that’s what helped me decide to work helping people who need it.”

Kohls served in Illinois from 1997-1998 as an AmeriCorps VISTA as a Community Development Coordinator. She said, “I am full of gratitude for the opportunity to serve in Prescott and I am grateful for the humongous learning opportunity!” Denver smiled.