Honor system

Safety officials bring special touch to BUG recognition.

Story by Lydia Johnson

Members of the Kiwanis Club of North Gwinnett, Georgia, wanted to do something out of the ordinary to recognize their BUG (bringing up grades) program students. After all, the young people had made big progress since Kiwanians re-established the initiative in 2015.


Barry Sanders has firsthand knowledge of those results. He and fellow club member Heidi Pickens joined forces to re-launch the program at Buford Academy, backed with the club’s full support.

“We wanted to recognize those kids who show the most improvement,” Sanders says. “Like a sports analogy, we weren’t looking for the most valuable player; we wanted to recognize the most improved. … It’s just basically adults recognizing the accomplishments of kids. The kids see you do that, and they do more.”


Indeed they did. Buford BUG students have shown gains in reading levels, grade-point averages and classroom engagement, with many earning repeat nominations for “most improved student” at a semester’s end. 

That’s why the Kiwanians wanted to make those biannual recognition events so special. 

The fun-filled proceedings are held during the school day. Fire and police departments arrange hands-on demonstrations that allow students to ride in fire trucks, try on protective gear and interact with police dogs from the K-9 unit. 

Aaron Carlyle, a K-9 officer with the Gwinnett County Police Department, has participated in the recognition events for the past two years.

“I think it’s a great program for kids who are in less-fortunate circumstances, and it gives them something to strive for,” Carlyle says. “It’s something to look forward to when they go to school.”


After the interactive presentations, North Gwinnett Kiwanians and public safety officers work together to distribute certificates of achievement and snow cone treats to the students. 

Since the program began, more than 800 second- through fifth-grade students have been recognized at 10 events, and the program has expanded to Sycamore Hills Elementary School. Looking toward the future, the Kiwanis club plans to expand BUG to the district’s 144 remaining schools. 

Sanders says increased demand for the program demonstrates an important lesson.

“Recognize the success of your kids. Recognize their small victories, because the small victories become big victories.”


This story originally appeared in the June/July issue of Kiwanis magazine.

3 thoughts on “Honor system

Add yours

  1. Great Idea! love the kids’ reactions, looking forward to learning more and maybe implementing it here.


  2. I think it is amazing what they are doing for these children. I wish more states have programs like this for the kids.


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