• Madison and Roosevelt feel the positive impact of Damian Lillard’s RESPECT program

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     Damian Lillard collage

    Damian Lillard's appearances for his RESPECT program has included full-school assemblies at Roosevelt (top left) and Madison (bottom right); a skate party at Oaks Park; and a gathering for 75 Madison CREED winners (bottom left).

    Students and staff, packed in a high school gym, cheer wildly as Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard enters the building – that is probably the prevailing image of Lillard’s RESPECT program on local news. But if you look closer at the details, you’ll see just how much the program means to the two PPS high schools that are partners in it.

    Lillard started the program in 2012 to encourage youth to "show up, work hard and be kind." At the Marshall High School campus, where Madison has been relocated for two years, the impact is signaled each week by the squeaky wheels of a cart being pushed in the hallways. At Roosevelt High School, in comes in a PA announcement.

    Madison and Roosevelt, which along with Parkrose High School are the 2019-20 partner schools for RESPECT, receive items from Lillard each month. Game tickets and signed shoes are the showcase pieces, and Lillard also sends backpacks, hats, stickers and other items.

    The items from the city’s biggest sports star have become prized incentives for positive behavior.

    Roosevelt uses game tickets – it gets 40 from Lillard each month -- to help boost attendance. Each month, all students whose attendance is at 90% or better are entered into a drawing from which 14 students receive two tickets to a game.

    The school also asks for nominations through an official postcard for students who might not meet the 90% threshold, but have taken positive steps. The nomination postcards are displayed in hallways on campus and also sent home to parents. The nominated students receive a goodie bag with a backpack, hat and stickers.

    “They’ve demonstrated a huge change in their behavior and their respect toward their education or community, or whatever it may be,” said Jonquil Vann, a counselor who coordinates the RESPECT program at Roosevelt.

    The highly-prized signed Lillard shoes are awarded as part of a program to celebrate on-track graduation.

    At Madison, RESPECT is linked to the school’s CREED values – for community, respect, education, equity and diversity. Each week, vice principal Travis Johnson wheels a squeaky cart around campus to deliver shoes, shirts, tickets, hats and bags to 10 students who embodied the CREED principles.

    “It’s a great incentive which we would not be able to do without the RESPECT program,” Johnson said.

    Both schools also award tickets to teachers, who are nominated by colleagues for doing something outstanding.

    Each month, each school also sends a photo and description of an outstanding student or teacher to Lillard’s staff, and that person is featured in Lillard’s Twitter feed, which has 1.8 million followers.

    There are also smaller gatherings. In September, Lillard invited students from all three of his partner high schools to a skating party at Oaks Park. Lillard, who is a well-known roller-skating aficionado, rented out the facility and spent time chatting with students.

    “The kids had a ball,” Johnson said.

    Lillard has appeared at assemblies at both schools, and last month, surprised 75 Madison CREED winners by showing up at a gathering for them.

    The connection to Lillard has opened other opportunities for the schools. Journalism students at Madison have taken part in CJ’s Press Pass, a program run by Lillard’s teammate, CJ McCollum, who majored in journalism at Lehigh University.

    Three leadership students at Roosevelt will get a chance to work with the Blazers game operations staff, learning how timeout performances and the halftime show are put together, information they will be able to use to sharpen assemblies at school.

    “It’s opened up different doorways for us to refine other parts of the school,” Vann said.

    In addition to incentives, the connection to the biggest star in the state is a major point of pride at Madison and Roosevelt.

    “The fact that he’s taken note of Roosevelt and some of the wonderful things that are happening here,” said Vann, echoing the sentiment at Madison. “We’re just all really thankful for it.”