Excelsior is SOARing to Greater Heights with PBIS

girls-pattycakeYouth at Excelsior are on a journey to wellness. At any given time, each child is experiencing a different phase of that journey – some that are very positive and encouraging, and others that are difficult and disheartening. Regardless of where a child is in their journey, they deserve a positive environment in which they can work together to learn, grow and build relationships.

In an effort to enhance Excelsior’s positive environment, we have recently implemented a new campus-wide framework, known as PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports), which uses positive reinforcement to improve social and learning behaviors.

PBIS Basics

PBIS is a team based, systematic approach to teaches consistent behavioral expectations across campus. It is designed to improve student behaviors to decrease disruption that interferes with instruction, activities or routines. It is a proactive model that positively reinforces and recognizes youth who effectively model behavioral expectations, while supporting youth who struggle to meet these expectations.

The Three Key Components of PBIS:

  1. Behavioral Expectations are Defined: A small number of behavioral expectations are clearly defined and simply stated in positive terms.
  2. Behavioral Expectations are Taught: Behavioral expectations are identified for various settings and directly taught to all youth.
  3. Appropriate Behaviors are Acknowledged: Appropriate Behaviors are consistently recognized and positively reinforced.

(For more information, visit: www.pbis.org)

PBIS & Excelsior

The most important aspect of the PBIS framework is that it is practiced campus-wide – by every person, in every setting, and during every activity. PBIS is applied in the hallways, restrooms, offices, school, cottages, teen center, and even off-campus; PBIS is practiced by teachers, direct care staff, therapists, administrators, families and volunteers. Everyone that works with our youth are aware of the behavioral expectations and ensures that youth are receiving the same message regardless of situation, setting or relationship. As such, PBIS provides a consistent language and campus-wide culture of positive engagement.

Excelsior’s SOAR Program

Excelsior has implemented PBIS by introducing our new SOAR program. Excelsior’s Eagle mascot inspired this acronym and helps us define our behavioral expectations in a simple, easy-to-remember way.

SOARSOAR stands for: Safety, On-Task, Accountable, Respectful – four basic behaviors that will not only help our youth progress in their treatment and education, but will also help them achieve long-term success.

Following the PBIS framework, these 4 SOAR behavioral expectations were clearly defined then explicitly taught to all our youth. SOAR posters have been placed all over campus and specific expectations have been defined for each of the four SOAR behaviors for each location and setting. Youth then spent a full day walking the entire campus and reviewing expectations in each location. Our staff engaged the girls in Q&A sessions, games and role playing activities to ensure each individual child fully understood the expectations.

Now that SOAR expectations have been defined and taught, staff are doing their part to consistently reward and reinforce kids that are modeling these behaviors. When kids are ‘caught’ positively following expectations, they are rewarded with a SOAR card. These cards are filled out by staff who indicate which specific behavioral expectation the student positively modeled. These cards can then be redeemed in the SOAR Store for items such as art supplies, toys, clothing items, and coupons for special activities/outings. Each item has a price, so kids can choose to spend their cards as they receive them or may save them up to purchase larger items.

Already, we have seen positive results from our SOAR program – youth are having fun learning the program and challenging one another to earn SOAR cards. Staff are noticing their relationships with each child grow stronger as positive engagement is increased and they learn to speak the same SOAR language. Together, we are already SOARing to greater heights.


Special thanks to your PBIS team for helping us SOAR! Without people like you, we could not do the incredible, life-changing work we do!