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Buffalo United Charter School Partners with Trainer to Improve Behavior & Academics

This past fall, Buffalo United Charter School (BUCS) started a partnership with Duncan Kirkwood, a national motivational speaker, trainer, and author, who helps youth find passion, perseverance, and purpose.
Middle school students were chosen as the focus of the project so they could work on goals of improving their behaviors and being their best selves. Staff are looking to make the students the most resilient and best version of themselves in both behavior and academics.
 Duncan Kirkwood speaks with students

Kirkwood is mid-way through five monthly presentations he is making to the BUCS middle school scholars. He started with an all-middle school assembly in November, while the rest of the monthly meetings break the students into four smaller groups with 30-minute presentations.
In this VIDEO, Kirkwood reviews a success pledge with the students and asks them to repeat it back to him: “I will always place my mission first. I will never accept defeat. I will never quit. It does not say I will never have defeat or face defeat. It says I will never accept defeat. So, when I have a setback, when it doesn’t work out, when things get tough, I’m not going to quit, I’m going to keep going. We talk about resilience. It doesn’t say we will not have hard times.”

Duncan Kirkwood presentation 
Some of the topics Kirkwood is focusing on is how students can connect with their parents, learning to respond instead of reacting, and a topic Kirkwood is passionate about is the “fierce urgency of now: education and social justice.”
The fifth- through eighth-grade staff will monitor behavior write-ups as one way to measure success. At each Kirkwood presentation, two students – the one who is most improved and the best overall student – each get a pair of bright yellow sneakers, made popular by NBA star Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets. Classrooms that show improvements receive pizza parties.
 Duncan Kirkwood and staff

BUCS Student Counselor Susie Strangis was a committee member who worked with Kirkwood in establishing the work he would do at BUCS.
“Mr. Kirkwood has been very impactful on our BUCS scholars,” said Strangis. “Our students have been so receptive to the subjects that he has spoken about. From the beginning, Mr. Kirkwood has been very collaborative. He takes the time to talk to us as a staff and our students and has tailored presentations to our needs. He uses relatable examples to help our students and teach them how to build resiliency. Students are learning that it is ok to have setbacks as long as you turn them in to learning experiences.”

Duncan Kirkwood and students

Kirkwood is also a veteran and a global resilience advocate. He has spent his professional life working to empower young people, parents, and communities. His mission is to make sure that everyone he works with can become the best version of themselves and live a life with peace, love, and joy.
He spent five years of his service in the Alabama Army National Guard as a master resilience trainer tasked with training soldiers to become more mentally tough. Using his resilience training and leadership experiences across the country, he identified important tools and tactics that students can use to achieve their full potential. BUCS is fortunate to have created this partnership.
About Buffalo United Charter School
Buffalo United Charter School, a school located in Buffalo, New York, is a partner school in the National Heritage Academies network of over 95 tuition-free, public charter schools across nine states, serving more than 60,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade. For more information, visit