RISE students raise spirits

Photo by Katherine Leszczynski RISE teacher Cindy Raders, center, has revamped the community service aspect at RISE since she took over this year, including having the students create tie blankets. Leah Verratti, left, and Kaci Merchen made many of the blankets.

Ralston Public School’s alternative program has undergone some changes this year.

With a new name — Ralston Individualized Student Education — and a new teacher — Cindy Raders — the alternative high school has transformed.

RISE, 7547 Main St., is a program through RPS that helps transfer students, students who might not do well in big settings or struggling students.

The program tailors itself to each student individually to what works best for them so they can succeed when they return to Ralston High School.

“We have to make it fun, but not too much so,” Raders said. “Ultimately they want to transfer back [to RHS].”

During Raders’ first year at RISE, she has made big changes.

Students at RISE, like those at RHS, have to complete 40 hours of community service before graduation. There have always been opportunities at RISE, but they have been tweaked since Raders took over.

“They used to clean up, take out the trash, little stuff,” RISE student Leah Verratti said. “Now, Ms. Raders is trying to make it so we’re helping the community.”

The students get to help those outside of the classroom now.

“We’re actually doing community service,” RISE student Kaci Merchen said, with emphasis on “community.”

The RISE students have gone to places around the metro area to volunteer. Students have volunteered at the Omaha Food Bank, packing bags and taking care of their garden. They have also spent days at the The Waterford at Roxbury Park assisted living center gardening.

“I’ve always done community service so for me it was just natural to add that component,” Raders said.

Raders also brought in fleece and other materials to make blankets for Waterford and the Open Door Mission.

“[The Open Door Mission] does gift bags for Christmas,” Raders said.

“I’m hoping we can coordinate a day to go down and stuff the bags.”

The students have enjoyed making the blankets.

“We were working on them constantly,” Verratti said. “Kaci and I alone did two in one day. It was fun and it was for a good cause.”

With the changes RISE has undergone with Raders, students are happy to have her.

“I like it better since she’s been here,” Verratti said. “She’s very insistent with us.”

Merchen agreed.

“She always says that we’re going to graduate,” Merchen said. “If it wasn’t for [RISE] and Ms. Raders, I would not be graduating.”

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