News & Events

July 16, 2020

Capturing Kids’ Hearts coming to every Copper Country school

August 14, 2020 Update: Please note that due to complications caused by COVID-19 planning for the reopening of our area schools, only five of the school districts in Michigan's Copper Country will be participating in Capturing Kids’ Hearts training prior to the start of the 2020-21 academic year. It is hoped the remainder of the districts will participate in this program at some point in the future.


If you capture a kid’s heart, you capture a kid’s mind. That’s the motto of the Flippen Group’s incredibly successful Capturing Kids’ Hearts program that’s about to become a lot more familiar to people in Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula. That’s because this August the program will be coming to every school in the four-county community of Baraga, Houghton, Keweenaw and Ontonagon counties thanks to the Portage Health Foundation (PHF).

Joy Sparks Leadership Development Strategist

“I am thrilled that the Portage Health Foundation was able to offer this extraordinary program to every school district in our four-county area,” said Bernadette Yeoman-Ouellette, Chair of the PHF Board of Directors. “This will impact so many students and give them tools that will enable their individual success. It is a fantastic example of the kind of long-term vision and strategic partnership the foundation can have with our community."

The program will start with a two-day training session that will include all teachers, administrators and support staff at the schools. Several area non-profits that offer complementary services to the schools will also have staff attend the training.

“Capturing Kids’ Hearts builds a bridge between staff, students, parents and the community,” said Vern Hazard, Senior Vice President Solutions at Flippen Group. “Not only will students grow, but the staff will grow as well. Our goal is always the success of each other. We want to bring out the best in all people.”

After the initial training, the schools will have follow-up training throughout the year to ensure the program is as successful as possible. This is the same training that has been used for the past two years at the Public Schools of Calumet-Laurium-Keweenaw (CLK Schools), which has seen splendid results since implementation.

“Our district is interested in the Capturing Kids Hearts program because we are constantly promoting a learning environment that is built on integrity, trust and respect,” said James Rautiola, Superintendent/Principal at Stanton Township Public Schools. “It is important to us that the kids are comfortable with who they are as individuals and not be afraid to tackle new challenges. E.B Holman strives to provide a ‘Red Carpet Treatment’ for everyone associated with our district by removing constraints while focusing on positive actions and behaviors.”

Capturing Kids’ Hearts Next Step in Youth Programing for PHF

In October 2017 Portage Health Foundation held an all-school assembly that engaged nearly 1,400 middle school students from the four-county community. PHF staff and other experts talked candidly with them about the challenges children in our community are facing every day.  

Kristina at CLK High School

“I stood in front of them and pledged to them that we heard them; we were listening; and we were going to do what we could to address these issues,” PHF Executive Director Kevin Store said. “The Capturing Kids’ Hearts program is another step that we and our area schools are taking to make progress on that promise – helping our kids to be healthier and happier members of our community.”

Along with the added supports that the tactics in this program will provide to the area’s education community, the application of this training has great potential to enhance the care and betterment of the whole child, including the social-emotional health of each student.  

“Our intention is that the approaches used in this program will influence a shared approach and philosophy that helps address trauma and resiliency throughout our community,” Store added. “In the pilot of this program (at CLK Schools), we have already seen notable positive changes in both the students and the faculty and staff who are involved.”

Partnership Years in the Making

In 2018, Hazard had the opportunity to speak to superintendents and district leaders in Escanaba. The presentation focused on “relational leadership” and the importance of capturing the hearts of students and staff. As a young man, Hazard’s heart was captured by his mentor, Mrs. Mary Meisner. She modeled greatness for him and ultimately it saved his life. Her impact on Hazard is a perfect example of the power that one meaningful adult relationship can have on a student. That event was the first time Mrs. Meisner heard Hazard praise her in that way, and it provided a touching moment for all those in attendance.

That relationship is a great example of how leadership drives school culture. Leaders that actively and intentionally engage their staff and students build highly engaged, connected cultures that lead to high performance.

Following the Escanaba event, The Marquette Alger Regional Educational Service Agency hosted a Capturing Kids’ Hearts training for key district leaders throughout Michigan and the Upper Peninsula. An incredible relationship was built between Hazard and CLK Schools administrators Christopher Davidson and Joel Asiala.

Over the last two years, they have done an exceptional job implementing the Capturing Kids’ Hearts process with fidelity. They have seen unbelievable transformation not only in the lives of their students and staff, but also within the families of the community.

The Flippen Group’s continued work in the Upper Peninsula led to an introduction to Kevin Store and other staff and board members at Portage Health Foundation. Their similar vision and passion to positively impact the school districts and communities in the Copper Country were immediately apparent and thus began this partnership.

“We are looking forward to the opportunity to serve alongside PHF and all the districts in the Copper Country as we seek to have a transformational impact in the lives of students, teachers, district administrators and all communities in the Keweenaw,” Hazard said. “Together, let’s capture the hearts of our students and create champions of hope for the U.P. as well as our nation.”

About Capturing Kids’ Hearts

For the past 30 years, the Capturing Kids’ Hearts team at Flippen Group has worked with hundreds of thousands of educators to model and apply Capturing Kids’ Hearts processes in their classrooms, on their campuses, with their teams and in their communities. These processes strengthen trust between teachers and students, support trauma-informed care, lead to self-governing classrooms, enable student connectedness, change school cultures and create accountability.

In addition, the Leadworthy initiative and curriculum is an extension of Capturing Kids’ Hearts and provides students grade 6 - 12 opportunities to develop critical, life-changing skills. The course focuses primarily on public speaking, communication skills, the ability to self-manage, financial literacy, work readiness, personal vision and setting goals for the future.

Campuses that implement these processes with fidelity see improvements in attendance, climate and culture, and overall academic performance, along with advancements in each of the five SEL (Social Emotional Learning) Competencies: relationship skills, self-awareness, responsible decision making, social awareness and self-management.

More Reading about Capturing Kids' Hearts