When SUCCESS Partners and its SUCCESS Foundation reached out to Lake Dallas, Texas, the troubled town’s schools implemented the nonprofit foundation’s SUCCESS for Teens program (read our article about the town’s crisis and healing at SUCCESS.com/LakeDallas). The uplifting program—credited with great strides in Lake Dallas—centers on the SUCCESS for Teens book in which teenagers tell how they took steps toward goals, developed a positive life philosophy and avoided temptations such as alcohol abuse.
The SUCCESS Foundation brought its empowering message to Lake Dallas kids in 2011 after two fellow students died (one was caused by risk-taking behavior and another was a suicide) and a suicide attempt. SUCCESS Partners, which owns Lake Dallas-based SUCCESS magazine, later produced a video documentary featuring participants in the SUCCESS for Teens program, and we talked to some of them about how this program changed their lives.
Patrick Patlan, now a senior, had already reached a turning point when the foundation’s efforts began. A self-described former showoff, he attended class, but his heart wasn’t in it. Patrick decided to focus and “actually passed all my classes for once.” SUCCESS Foundation materials reinforced his efforts. He learned that choices matter and that real friends don’t push you to do what you don’t want to do.
Amadi Taylor, who completed her freshman year last spring, said high school is about fitting in, and she agrees with Patrick that people who pressure you to violate your values “are not your real friends.” The program’s emphasis on taking little actions to achieve a big goal impressed her.
Middle-schooler Madilyn Bodkin remembered a story from the SUCCESS for Teens book about a girl in a crisis. “She kept her head up and kept moving; she didn’t let what anybody else said about her” get under her skin. That helped Madilyn through a similar hard time.
Noah Stone, also in middle school, saw himself in a section about money. “I used to shop a lot. I was reading about how this girl did the same as me, and she ended up being really broke by the time she got out of college. I cut back my spending a lot.”
Daisy Sandoval, a fellow middle-schooler, admitted to being spoiled and talking back to teachers. “When I read the book, I started understanding that that path didn’t take you anywhere.” She liked the book’s statement that you can get something out of your mistakes: “You actually end up learning something new.”
Middle school administrator Deborah Franklin said, “You could really see a transformation in some students… from the beginning of the year [until the spring semester ended]. I saw baby steps” in other students. The school’s existing system of spirit tickets rewarded students for good behavior. After the SUCCESS for Teens program became part of school life, Franklin saw more spontaneous acts of kindness without any thought of the spirit tickets.
To maximize the program, Madilyn recommends adults read along. Kids “can relate to me, or they can relate to the stories in the book or they can relate to the video that they’re going to see. I think I would want them to know that anyone can read the book, even adults.… Maybe they’ll understand more.”
Patrick developed a selfless goal from the program. “I want to touch people,” and even if he helps only one person, Patrick said the effort will be worthwhile.