I changed my clothes several times, rechecked my hair, and made sure my lunch was packed. I drove to school with anxious jitters and sweaty palms, wondering who I would eat with and whether I could navigate four floors and 600 kids. My first day of middle school as a 27-year-old probably mirrored that of any 6th grader.

I have had the honor of witnessing a group of 30+ students grow from 2nd graders to now 6th graders. We’ve journeyed life together – celebrating birthdays, cheering at basketball games, attending dance recitals, eating lunches, and sharing many more of life’s ups and downs.

Kids on Course has offered me the unique opportunity to help develop a program designed to support kids from early elementary through high school, setting them up to attend post-secondary education regardless of barriers related to poverty, race, family, and frankly, life. This year, our inaugural group of students (aka, our Kids on Course guinea pigs) entered a new phase of life: middle school. In tandem, so did we.

While most middle schoolers are taller than me and there are times I still get swallowed in the masses during passing time, I have grown to adore the highly impressionable and identity-forming period of life that is middle school. Our program has shifted from building expectations and creating dreams, to connecting passions and having conversations about future careers and colleges, navigating relationships, and yes — how often (every day) you should use deodorant.

Middle school is often a cringe-worthy conversation topic, whether people have memories of their own pimply-faced, braces-wearing days, or they have impressions of rowdy pre-teens trying to form their own mark on the world. Regardless, when I’m asked how I could ever work with “that age” I can’t help but gush about how my kids have such a profound perspective on life, their tenacity and humor, and demonstrated kindness for others.

It is a privilege to daily walk in the halls of Roosevelt Middle School alongside a group of Kids on Course students who have grown from squirrely 2nd graders to the passionate and fun 6th graders they are today. Though we have a long ways to go and getting to class on time might still be a struggle, I’m confident that I’ll be sitting in the audience of their high school graduations, a proud “mom” to 30 kids who have overcome more than I ever have, to earn that high school diploma and enter the next phase of education in their lives.

– Hannah White, Site Manager at Roosevelt Middle School

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