By the time Kids on Course students reach high school they will have had more than 250 hours of tutoring, experienced more than 15 different sports, art classes, or other enrichment classes, visited at least four college campuses, and a personal mentor to ensure they know each day that someone cares, someone is holding them accountable, and someone is guiding them to the best possible future.

As the Program Leader of Kids on Course I don’t get to spend much time with students, but I devote hours to looking at their data and supporting the staff that walks alongside children within their schools. And when I look at our inaugural group of Kids on Course students, our current eighth graders, my heart swells with joy. When we met them in second grade, they were so little and many of them were shy and struggling with their learning. We’ve seen them transform into much taller (!) and more confident in their educational and personal paths. Some are excelling on the basketball court, in Algebra, on the soccer field or on the stage. What a gift to be a witness as they soon embark on the next chapter: high school.

In order to prepare for this transition, we’ve been meeting with high school principals, colleges, career planning experts, trade and apprentice groups, and military recruiters. We want to know the entire post-secondary landscape so we can be experts in getting these young people on a path that best fits with their interests and strengths. Right now these eighth graders are planning their schedules for high school and Jaimen Pangborn and David Savino have been guiding their course selection and ensuring students are filling their school days with opportunities that will challenge and motivate them. So if a student sneaks in a study hall, rather than an elective like Teen Issues or Creative Writing, you better believe we’ll catch it.

The Zach Johnson Foundation started Kids on Course to meet a community need and fulfill Zach and Kim’s dream of supporting children in his hometown who might otherwise fall through the cracks. Our results show that students who’ve been in Kids on Course for two or more years are less likely to get in trouble at school, are more likely to be on grade level in reading, and are more hopeful about their futures. But the real test of the success of our program will come when these eighth graders are enrolled in college, a trade, or military service after high school. Then we will know we’ve reached our goal of getting all Kids on Course students on a path to further learning after high school, which also means they graduated high school on time. We know that 86% of our students are first generation college students, as defined by the Department of Education (not having any parents with a four-year degree.) This data point is important because it shows our program is reaching students who have the most to gain from post-secondary education and are the most at risk, according to nationwide and local statistics, of not having success after high school.

We love these students, and these families. We cannot wait to see what they grow into over the next four a half years. We’ve already started working with iCAN and community partners to assess their interests and strengths to help guide them in future careers. While 14 year olds can change their minds on a day-to-day basis, we know it’s valuable to get them thinking about what kind of schooling they want to pursue after high school, and how that impacts their dream job prospects. We’ll also be diving into the costs of college, and how a high GPA, well-rounded extra-curricular resume, and pursuing scholarships can reduce the burden of debt. And each student in Kids on Course will receive a scholarship if they stick with the program through 12th grade to pursue the degree, certificate or training necessary to live independently and proudly in a life of their choosing. We are so thankful for this opportunity to share in the success of these young people, and love every minute of being in their lives!

– Beth Malicki, Kids on Course Program Leader