COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Students are heavily engaged in and excited about their education at Horizon Middle School thanks to the District 49 school’s Renaissance Program.

“We’ve seen a more than 400% increase since we started Renaissance,” said Dustin Horras, principal.

Now in its sixth year, nearly two-thirds of the middle school students earn at least some of the rewards available in the program.

“Students must maintain a 3.0 and have no behavioral referrals,” Horras said.

Learners earn more rewards through the program at three levels. The higher the grade point average, the more rewards.

“They can include getting dismissed for lunch early,” said Kelly Champlin, arts instructor. “They may get to wear their headphones while they work on their art project in my class.”

“At lunch they might hand out little popsicles we can eat,” said Troy Hill, eighth-grader. “There are rewards throughout the day, like we can play bingo or we can go outside.”

“I used to be a C student and now I’m an A and B student,” Hill said.

“Lots of kids are caring about their grades and their behavior,” Horras said. “They’re wanting feedback because they want to earn Renaissance.”

Teachers helped motivate returning students and introduce the Renaissance program to new students during the first program assembly of the year.

“The kids love to see their teachers doing things,” Horras said. “It’s their favorite thing. We hear that from them.”

“I’m the last guy in the world that wants to do this kind of stuff, but we kind of look at as, if it’s for kids, we do it,” Horras said.

“If a kid needs you to do a cartwheel across the room to get them to achieve, then that’s what you should do,” Horras said. “We have teachers that are willing to do that.”

“The kids love the program,” Champlin said. “it gets them more pumped up for trying their best.”

“We’ve also seen it translate to our scores on state testing in both on achievement and growth,” Horras said. “We’ve seen some pretty nice increases.”

“It’s an amazing program and other schools should definitely do it,” Troy said.