Six Southwestern Michigan College students are mentors fall semester in Dowagiac Middle School’s “Five Star Life” after-school program, including one former participant.
“I’ve been a counselor going on three years,” said Kyron Harris, from Michigan City, Ind. “I personally like to watch the growth from the beginning stages of when I work with kids, throughout the process and how they grow in self-respect and figure out who they are. Here, I get to help them grow academically to achieve better grades.”
“It’s a really good program for kids to step outside of their comfort zones and to learn to take leadership,” Harris said.
Harris said his advanced speech teacher’s son was an SMC resident assistant at the time he was undecided and trying to choose between Ball State and Indiana universities.
“She said SMC was a great community college to start at,” said Harris, a pre-med student who wants to be an obstetrician/gynecologist.
Dowagiac’s Carlee Recla, who graduated from Niles High School, recently changed majors from social work to secondary education.
That switch is “kind of” related to the coaching she signed on for Sept. 13 at Campus Bash. “I’ve always loved English,” she said. “Now I’m getting into the groove of helping them with their grades.”
Audrianna Leer of Edwardsburg, studying elementary education, participated in Five Star during grades 6-8 at Discovery Middle School in Granger, Ind.
“I love this program and what it does for kids,” of which there are 94.
“I hope I can be that coach here for someone who needs it,” said Leer, whose three aunts teach. I wasn’t planning on signing up at Campus Bash because I didn’t know they had it in Dowagiac.
“I have a vision of teaching kids on a military base outside the United States because I grew up around that when my dad was in the military. I think I can connect with them possibly more than teaching in a regular school,” said Leer, who expects to transfer to Texas for her last two years of college.
“Seven thousand students drop out of school a day,” Leer learned. “They drop out in high school, but check out in middle school.”
Samantha Dunn from Tekonsha, near Battle Creek, knew Harris from camp counseling.
Sam “was drawn to Five Star at Campus Bash talking to Coach Pat” O’Keefe.
“It’s nice I can help kids academically because I wasn’t a very good student in high school. I’m here to study sports management. I want to be an athletic director,” Dunn said.
Different values are highlighted each Thursday, 2:30-4:30.
Last week was courage, this week integrity, reinforced by energizing music and uplifting rhetoric.
Nov. 2 they were beginning fundraising for summer camp at 300-acre Summit, the leadership training facility with horseback riding, fishing and boating in Cass County’s Union.
Five Star, founded 12 years ago in Elkhart, Ind., is coming up in January on its fifth anniversary in Dowagiac.
The program helps students fulfill potential by connecting to a community volunteer and committing to core values such as respect, responsibility, sacrifice and courage.
The current eight-week season concludes Dec. 7 with awards night.
“We’ve transitioned from our staff running it to Dowagiac people running it,” President/Executive Director Seth Maust said. “There are 10 area schools doing the program,” plus a video curriculum 25 schools implement reaching 10,000 students weekly.
“This is a very strong program, which is why we’re equipping them to run it,” Maust said. “Nobody knows Dowagiac students like Dowagiac people. The relationship between Southwestern Michigan College and the program here is coming together.”
Maust, a former college basketball player, coached at the high school level and served as a church youth director for six years.
“I saw so many kids slipping through the cracks,” Maust said.
Eighty percent of first-time drug abuse happens ages 10-14 between 3 and 6 p.m. Eighty-five percent of juvenile crime occurs from 2 to 7 p.m.