ST. PAUL, Minn. - Over the last five years, Washington Technology Magnet School has seen suspensions drop by 62 percent.
Devon Smith is a big part of that change as a behavioral intervention specialist for St. Paul Youth Services, a nonprofit that works with at-risk kids.
The group partnered with the school 10 years ago for the Behavior Intervention Program. The idea is to send students who misbehave to see mentors like Smith instead of sending them home.
"I see about 25-30 of them a week," Smith said.
He helps students think through the situation and give them advice on how to handle it in the future. The goal is to hold students accountable for their actions while also providing them with tools to be successful in school.
"The BIP program has allowed us to move forward academically because it's one tool in the tool box that takes care of behavior. If you don't have a school that's orderly and safe, you're not going to have learning occurring," Principal Mike McCollor said.
Smith says he knows how hard it can be to reach a troubled teenager because he used to be one. In high school, Smith said he was suspended up to five times. Things changed his sophomore year when his high school coach reached out to him.
"He took his time out to say 'Look, I see what you can do. I see the positive in you. I need for you to see that in yourself.' And it made me start to look at that like, 'OK, I'm going to start seeing positive in myself,'" Smith said.
He now hopes he can help his students see the positive too.