Teenagers often repeated the phrase “little things matter” during last summer’s Upward Bound Math & Science program at Claflin University in Orangeburg, S.C. They heard those empowering words through the SUCCESS Foundation-funded SUCCESS for Teens program, which is designed to help kids set and reach goals and resist negative influences in their lives.
In fact, “Little Things Matter” is the first chapter of the book SUCCESS for Teens: Real Teens Talk About Using the Slight Edge, which contains the core curriculum for the foundation’s program. Claflin’s former SUCCESS for Teens facilitator, Laura M. Jenkins, used bound books, which are donated free to schools, churches and nonprofit youth-development organizations that request them at SUCCESSFoundation.org; the website also offers free downloads of audio and e-books.
For the last two years, Claflin’s summer program has used SUCCESS for Teens materials to spark conversations with teens about personal issues. Upward Bound Math & Science, a federally funded summer residential program, emphasizes math and science skills with the hope of interesting students in majoring in those subjects. It is open to high school sophomores, juniors and seniors in low-income families in eight southeastern states; participants would be potentially the first college students in those families.
Jenkins says her students liked the book’s stories, which are told in kids’ own words. “They really liked teens talking about their friends being on drugs, or their friends dropping out, or a friend going into crime—they could relate to that,” she says. “I never had a problem getting somebody to read a story out loud”—each request for a volunteer was met with a forest of raised hands.
Participant Tyquanna M. gives the classes a big thumbs-up: “Learning information from the book, I was able to share things with my sister and my friends.”
Sharon M. Capers, director of Upward Bound Math & Science at Claflin, decided to use Success for Teens after seeing boxes of the books addressed to another university outreach project in a hallway. Capers liked the way the book encourages students to be introspective about issues they might not think about on their own, so she ordered copies to supplement the math and science instruction.
“Although there is a focus on math and science and educational attainment, our program is designed to develop the whole person,” Capers says. Thought-provoking real-life scenarios offered by Success for Teens “allowed for self-understanding, confidence-building and decision-making.”