During the summer of 2018, Reaching Up noted that several eighth grade students would be heading into high school and thus out of the Homework Help program. The leaders understood that the transition to high school could be difficult, especially for those still working on building good academic habits and skills, learning confidence, and facing environmental or structural factors that do not support their learning and development. Not wanting to pull this valuable support network out from under the students just as it was most needed, Reaching Up developed the Homework Help High School Program! As we near the end of the first year of the High School program, here is a short update on a handful of the students who have benefited. Reaching Up's Homework Help program meets at Easter by the Lake four evenings a week during the school year.

Five of Many Success Stories

Blossoming Self-Confidence
She is a model student and one of the bright lights at Homework Help. Determined to make high school the start of bigger and better things for herself, she asked to join Homework Help. When she first joined, she said that she had very little hope for herself academically. At the end of Middle School, she saw herself as a failing student. She was determined, however, that high school would be different. She quickly took up the habits of a good student, tracking assignments and tests, turning work in punctually, communicating with her teachers, and asking for help when necessary. It has paid off magnificently! By the end of first quarter, her GPA was 3.5 This achievement is primarily due to her blossoming self-confidence, determination, integrity, and constantly hopeful eye toward the future. Second quarter brought two major losses as both her father and grandfather passed. While her grades slipped a little, she used her father’s memory to increase her determination to graduate high school and eventually college. In fact, her goal is to attend the University of Minnesota and she has adjusted her academic plan to meet their rigorous requirements.

Working on Big Dreams After Crippling Shyness
Her story is notable for personal growth. At the beginning of the year, she was almost crippled by shyness. Her grades were average but her fear of communicating prevented her from demonstrating her full intellectual capabilities. Additionally, she seemed to have anxiety around tests that kept her grades down and, again, prevented her from demonstrating her knowledge. Homework Help mentors helped build her confidence in an intimate environment rather different from the overwhelming classrooms at school. Her grades have risen, and she has made a point of being more prepared for tests to counter her anxiety. There have been some dark times for her this year, but Homework Help has been a place of refuge for her, and socially she has opened up considerably. She has big dreams and would like to become a police officer. Her Homework Help mentors have gone to great lengths to support this goal, enrolling her in the Teen Police Academy in Apple Valley and regularly providing transportation. Confidence is something she sorely needed at the beginning of the year, and there is perhaps no greater confidence boost than knowing that the people in your life are going to make sure you reach your goal. That is a humbling sense of responsibility, but one with amazing rewards.

Achieving His Goals
He is an incredibly industrious student with a passion for basketball. First trimester, he announced that his goal was to get straight A’s so that he could get into the basketball program with a strong academic record. This raised eyebrows, as during middle school he had demonstrated an attitude that discounted the value of academic achievement, was resistant to help, and showed that he could be headstrong and stubborn. Fortunately, he brought those same qualities to bear on his schoolwork and produced straight A’s. He decisively proved that he can be trusted to achieve the goals that he sets for himself. He left the Homework Help program in November to play for his school’s basketball team. He was since returned on a part-time basis, and has maintained his grades throughout that time. He is a fine example of what can happen with an awesome amount of confidence and a clear goal in mind.

Learning Habits to Apply in the Classroom and Life
He is gregarious, outgoing, respectful, and comfortable in the company of others. At the same time, he struggles greatly with some of his classes, which have progressed faster than his understanding. He can sometimes feel overwhelmed academically. His greatest challenges are geometry and biology, where the fast pace of the class means he can feel left behind. He has made progress, however, in building up the habits of a good student, such as communicating with teachers and keeping track of assignments. He is getting better at advocating for himself, too. Improving these habits means he is beginning to see some progress. His greatest strengths and interests are artistic and cultural. His best grades are in art and Japanese. He does his homework in those classes very eagerly, but he knows to prioritize his work in math and science at Homework Help. He will continue to build these academic skills and work to translate them into success in the classroom. In the meantime, he is an important addition to our Homework Help community, using his notable interpersonal intelligence to urge relationships with his peers and younger students. He has expressed an interest in becoming a mechanic. In this final trimester, one of the Homework Help mentors has worked to connect him with mentors and apprenticeship opportunities so that he can benefit from a sense of purpose and forward motion. His unfailingly positive attitude will allow him to take full advantage of this extra level of assistance.

From Apathetic to Determined
When he first came to Homework Help a year and a half ago, he was doing third grade math and spoke little English. He now communicates fluently and even writes poetry in two languages. At the end of last trimester, he scored a B on his algebra final. The difference since last year in his attitude toward school, himself, and life is almost night and day. At the beginning of the year, he was the most challenging student for his mentor due to his apathy, and even challenged the value of academic achievement. It seemed that his attitude toward schoolwork was part of a larger instinct of self preservation. He couldn’t hide, however, that he did care about his grade. He didn’t like feeling incompetent. Math was especially unpleasant. For the first half of the year, math triggered an unproductive sulk. He was quickly falling behind, because he had no confidence in his ability to do the work independently. Unlike other subjects, like English, which he has a natural affinity for, he refused to do any work for math at home. Faced with the prospect of a failing grade, however, his attitude changed in the last month. He regularly requested help in math without coercion and even experienced a certain level of mastery. This new determination demonstrated a budding confidence in his academic ability even in the subject that he cares for the least. In all his classes, he has a way to go toward being the ideal student. He knows this, but he also knows what it takes. More importantly, he is starting to suspect that he has what it takes. This is not a change so much as a revelation of something that was always there. The real change is an intrinsic motivation that has grown out of his own vast reserves of resilience. What has brought about this change? His mentor credits the safety, stability, and loving attention of the Homework Help program as well as teachers past and present.