Helping students unite and succeed

‘MAN U’ hopes to unite students at Washougal middle schools

David Cooke

As a former teacher of ninth-grade students, David Cooke has seen firsthand how middle school preparedness, or lack thereof, is intertwined with student success in high school.

“It became clearly apparent to me that the ninth grade is the most critical year in high school,” he said. “Now, as a middle school principal, I have seen the connection between successful students and a strong support system.”

That’s why Cooke, the principal of Jemtegaard Middle School in Washougal, has come up with a unique program targeted at eighth-grade boys.

A group, which included educators and parents, sought to answer the questions of how to help boys become successful young men, build a strong group of leaders who transition successfully to high school, support boys without a male role model in the home, and help them build a support system that encourages healthy choices.

“In our quest to answer these questions, our MAN U program has emerged,” Cooke said. “Throughout this school year we will bring our eighth-grade boys from Canyon Creek and Jemtegaard together for a series of events so they can be exposed to new experiences, learn, create and build new connections with peers and adults.”

He continues, “As a result we will tighten the bond between our eighth-grade boys so they will be a positive and productive force when they enter the high school. Their growing leadership will also have an impact on the middle school students as well. Our goal is to have this become a rite of passage at both schools for years to come.”

The first event is called MAN U 101, which will be held Thursday, Nov. 5, from 4 to 6:30 p.m. at JMS. Canyon Creek boys will be bussed to and from the event.

Activities include how to use tools, problem solving, first aid/safety, athletics, automotive, wilderness survival, and how to make knots and lashings.

Each participant will receive a “MAN U 101,” card, to indicate the training they have been through. A fully punched card qualifies them for prizes and a wristband.

Parents who would like their sons to participate are asked to fill out the permission slip that was recently sent home, and bring it back to the office at either Jemtegaard or Canyon Creek by Thursday.

“This will be a great experience for the young man in your house to make new friends, learn new skills and build a bond that will see them succeed at the high school,” Cooke said. “We hope to have a full house on Nov. 5.”

A similar program is in the works for middle school girls, with the first event tentatively scheduled for January.

For more information, contact