Home schooling might be a common practice, but have you ever heard of virtual schooling, where students take classes from accredited teachers from the comfort of their own homes? That’s the premise of the Virtual Community School of Ohio. Based in Reynoldsburg, Ohio, the school provides free online education for children in grades K-12. The concept works particularly well for students who need specialized instruction or who are able to work at an accelerated pace.
But virtual schooling has its drawbacks; and that’s where counselor Kelsey DePompei comes in.
“In working with students in the digital environment, it can be easy to develop bad habits if students do not hold themselves accountable for staying on track,” she says.
DePompei recently added a new tool to her repertoire: SUCCESS for Teens, a personal-development curriculum created by the SUCCESS Foundation, and its cornerstone text, SUCCESS for Teens: Real Teens Talk about Using the Slight Edge.
“As part of our staff’s professional development, we regularly refer to SUCCESS,” she says. “When I became the school counselor, I found a stack of SUCCESS for Teens and decided to read through one. I was so impressed with the material in the book that I decided to develop a life skills coaching group revolving around the reading and discussion activities.” (The SUCCESS Foundation donates hard copies of the book to qualifying public schools, churches and nonprofit youth-development programs; SUCCESSFoundation.org offers free downloads of the book and facilitator’s guide to everyone.)
Last year she formed the group with 10 students, sending each a copy of the book and leading the course through educational learning platforms Blackboard and OpenLearning. SUCCESS for Teens, in which teens talk about developing positive skills and habits via manageable steps, is very relevant for her students, she says.
“The book discusses many important areas that teens struggle with in both the traditional and digital school environment, such as goal-setting, decision-making, peer interactions, overcoming failure, personal development and maintaining a positive attitude to develop healthy and effective habits,” she says. “I felt the material in the book helped students truly understand the importance of attitude and habits in becoming successful while developing a philosophy for life.”
DePompei’s students were eager to discuss the book’s lessons, she says, particularly Chapter 5, “There’s No Such Thing as Failure.”
“I learned that most teens fear failure,” she says. “No one wants to look incompetent in front of their peers or leaders. In fearing failure, it prevented [the students] from trying some new things in life. Going forward, they all agreed that being a little more adventurous and willing to adapt from mistakes was the best way to tackle growing up.”
One student enrolled at the Virtual Community School after he was a victim of bullying at his former school, DePompei says. “From participating in the group and reading the material, he was able to socialize with his peers, overcome his fear of sharing his ideas and feelings, and develop a plan for his future.”
The counselor hopes to make the course count for class credit in the future, and she plans to use it with at-risk students to help lower the dropout rate.
To request books, learn about the program, share your story about it or make a contribution, visit SUCCESSFoundation.org. Leaders, participants and donors can request a profile in SUCCESS by emailing [email protected]
This article originally appeared in the October 2016 issue of SUCCESS magazine.