SUCCESS for Teens Earns an ‘A’

The SUCCESS Foundation’s SUCCESS for Teens program matched perfectly with the needs of Lawrenceville, Ga., middle school teacher Rod Hames. His subjects are business and computers, including introduction to keyboarding, Microsoft Office, programming, web design, financial literacy and entrepreneurship. “I’m trying to get the kids to understand some of the essentials of business,” he says.

A colleague suggested he check out the foundation’s program and its accompanying SUCCESS for Teens book. The book’s lessons about goal-setting and positive behavior gave Hames’ students a starting point for writing in their journals as part of his assignments. He liked the book’s easy-to-read language as well as its examples and life lessons from teenagers’ points of view. The fact that it was free in the quantities he needed was “massively huge” in his decision to use the curriculum, he says.

“I tried different scenarios [using the book], and all of them have worked pretty well,” Hames says. First, he had students read the book and discuss it weekly. “That was very popular.” Next he asked his principal, and then other professionals in the school, to discuss a topic from one of the eight chapters.

“Then I went to our community members and said, ‘I’m going to give this book to you, and I’d like for you to think about which chapter resonates with you. Would you consider presenting that chapter in my classroom?’ ” Everyone had something different to share. “For instance, the owner of [the sandwich shop] Which Wich came to class, and he wanted to talk about failure” and how you can learn from it. Community leaders gave examples from their lives of how a chapter touched them. He also asked students’ parents to participate, and one made a virtual visit to the classroom via Skype, which impressed the kids.

Middle-schoolers are on the young side to relate to a few of the issues in the book, Hames says, and with sensitive topics, “there’s some reluctance to go deep, but I think they get the basic concepts. They understand about time management and making goals, how little things make a difference, and how success is built on failure and failure is not the end of the world.” Hames is now looking for a way to quantify their comprehension of the book with test questions. “There’s so much meat involved in each chapter.”

Even though the book is engaging and his students clearly are reading it, Hames says it’s a challenge to draw middle-schoolers out in class discussions because they’re self-conscious, sensitive and concerned what their peers will think of them. But in a world where “many people won’t discuss these things and won’t push them to rise above problems,” SUCCESS for Teens helps. “They learn to take the responsibility for their own actions….

“I know without a doubt that we’ve changed lives. That’s meaningful to me.”


Betsy Simnacher is a freelance writer who has been published in numerous newspapers and magazines nationwide. She lives in the suburbs of Dallas.

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