Rick Jackson was moved when he read a SUCCESS article about how the SUCCESS for Teens program nurtures kids’ leadership and coping skills and their self-esteem. He wanted to reward students who took the program’s lessons to heart, so his Jackson Insurance Agency in Sterling, Colo., in 2012 and 2013 has given an iPad to the student who composes the best essay about his or her takeaways from the program.
Although good writing is a plus, the students are judged on how the SUCCESS for Teens book—central to the program—has affected their lives, as shown by their essays and changes in their behavior. This year’s winner is Taylor Pierce, a 15-year-old sophomore at Sterling High School. SUCCESS for Teens wasn’t “just another book that my teachers are forcing me to read,” Taylor wrote. “[Instead] this book was an opportunity to change an unhappy life into a dream that can come true.”
Her essay mirrors key points in SUCCESS for Teens. “It’s so amazing how a few tips help take the weight off your shoulders,” Taylor wrote. “This book has opened my eyes to how little steps go a long way, [and] I learned that to have better relationships with people, you must have a balanced amount of trust and belief.” As the book recommends, she began taking small, positive steps, such as going to bed earlier and earlier until she wasn’t tired anymore. “Now I am getting better grades, and I’m more alert so my mood has changed, too.” Taylor’s mom, Josie Hector, says, “I like how adult she was about it.”
Jackson and his agency colleagues read and discuss every essay (teachers submit three from each class). “The thing that alarmed me is the percentage of the kids who talked about suicide, of either themselves or somebody they knew, and how this book could help them understand that there are a lot worse things out there than what they’re going through,” he says. In the essays, the students said they “just need to use these eight principles [from the book]…and it could actually change their thinking and their way of life.”
He persuaded Sterling High, in the hub of northeastern Colorado, and three other schools to use the curriculum. Taylor is proof positive that the program works. She wrote that the book “will help you with decisions, relationships, and even ways to change your life by using these little steps and so much more. Why not read it? I promise you, it will be the best decision you’ve ever made.”
If you’d like to help kids like Taylor or reward them as Jackson has, visit SUCCESSFoundation.org. A Gift of $25 will sponsor a class, and $1,000 sponsors an entire district—but you may make your tax-deductible contribution in any amount. Through these donations, SUCCESS for Teens books (available in print, on CDs and as a download; there’s also a facilitator’s guide) are provided free to schools and other qualifying youth programs. You may request the materials at [email protected]