Over the past 12 weeks, Orenda has held an incredible program that taught students to become more confident, self-aware, and responsible for their own lives. We also taught valuable life-skills including how to make and deepen relationships, how to become more motivated by turning life into a video game, how to learn anything faster and how to build habits.
In our final session, we hold a giant presentation to all the families of our students as well as the public. In this session students and their coaches get up in front of everyone and share what they have learned and the progress they made over the past 12 weeks. At the end, each student receives a personalized gift from their coach that will help them continue their learning journey after Orenda is over.
This Fall, we had a number of phenomenal success stories with our students. We wanted to highlight a few of these stories to celebrate the successes of our students. We invited each of their coaches to share a little bit about the stories behind these students.
9th Grader Girl
“I worked with a very shy 9th grade girl during Orenda’s Fall 2017 Session. Early on, our 1-1s progresses very slowly because she didn’t have many opinions. It’s quite common for teens to shrug and say, “I don’t know” to every question, but this student was a genuine case in which she truly hadn’t put much thought into things.
Over the course of the program, we spent most of our conversations talking about self awareness and taking small steps to be less shy. Each week we set up small goals for herself to stretch her social ability and review what she did the week prior. Sometimes she wouldn’t accomplish her goal, so we would take time to understand why. Sometimes she would make progress, and we would build on it. She is slowly gaining comfort in interacting with her teachers as well as sharing her opinions.
By the end of the program I gave her the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking. As an introvert myself, I often felt out of place in a world that celebrated extroversion. This book does a great job explaining how the introvert mind works, how to capitalize on the strengths on introversion, and how to be more comfortable as a more reserved person.”
9th Grader Boy
“The first time I met this 9th grade boy, I knew we had a lot of work to do. He often spoke poorly of himself and his mother would also constantly highlighting all the ways he wasn’t doing well. He didn’t have a very optimistic view of himself or his future despite having almost straight A’s in school.
We had many conversations unraveling why he seemed so pessimistic, why he chronically struggled with procrastination, and how both of these things seemed to exacerbate each other.
By the end of the program, there was a noticeable difference with this student’s outlook. He seemed a lot more grounded, both in his body language in how he spoke. He was a lot more calm, spoke more kindly about himself and seemed to have more hope in things getting better for himself. He had been seeing some incremental progress in his life and to further nurture his perspective and mindset, I gave him the book Learned Optimism -- a research-based book about how mindsets can make or break your life, and how things like pessimism and optimism can be learned and unlearned.”
8th Grader Boy
“One of the students I worked with during the summer and into the fall was an 8th grade boy. He came into the program with enthusiasm and some direction in his life. However he still had a lot to learn when it came to social skills, being responsible for his work and was in the process of building positive habits. As I worked with him over the program, he became much more focused on his schoolwork. I showed him how to eliminate distractions from his workplace (he is a very avid YouTuber and gamer) and he tried my techniques to great success. His grades picked up, making his mom very happy.
I also remember that he told me he was nervous about a summer camp he was attending in LA since he would be one of the youngest students there. He wasn’t sure how he would interact with the high school students. What if they didn’t like him? What if they refuse to hang out with him? What if they thought he was too young?
To help him overcome this anxiety, I role-played with him to develop his social skills. I pretended to be a high school student attending the camp with him and ran through a variety of scenarios. We practiced how he could engage with the student in each of these scenarios. He was significantly more calm and prepared. He ended up greatly enjoying his time at the camp.
At our final session, I gave him the book Armada. It is a science fiction novel about a young boy who plays an online video game that he eventually finds out is helping him actually defend against an alien invasion. I gave him this book because he told me he is a slow-reader and generally finds reading books frustrating. I wanted to help him develop his reading comprehension so I picked a book that I think he would greatly enjoy. His mom has already told me how enthusiastically he has been diving into the book.”
10th Grader Girl
“One of our 10th grade female students came to Orenda unclear about why she had so many challenges with her past friendships and unsure of herself and her future. She had the self-motivation to accomplish all of her schoolwork and after-school activities but didn’t feel like she had much control over her own life.
For this student, I focused on helping her see herself more clearly and regain a sense of control and direction for her life. Her struggle with the social aspects of school and lack of self-confidence began to negatively affect how she thought she was doing academically in school. Self-awareness, self-acceptance, and self-confidence were key pillars in our 1:1 conversations.
I remember asking her why she felt unsure about trusting her friends. She said she was cast away from a friend group because of lots of negative gossip. She didn’t understand why people would gossip and I walked her through what it would mean for her to get closure and what her options were. By the next session, she realized she no longer wanted to associate herself with her former friends because they were not genuine friends, and no longer saw it necessary to confront her peers about an incident that happened three years ago. Equipped with this epiphany, she gained confidence in herself that she didn’t need to know the reason why she was casted away in order to get closure for herself.
Over time, we began to see her self-confidence grow. As we chipped away at the source of her anxiety with her former friends, she began to redirect her focus to school and academics. Her newly gained self-confidence helped her make progress with her test anxiety, especially for her mathematics course.
Parents often believe that students should always 100% be focused on academics in school. Sometimes, however, the challenges a student experiences in other parts of her life get in the way of her excelling more in school. Until those challenges are addressed, it can be hard for a student to focus and do well on academics.
By the end of our coaching session, I am proud to say that this student was more aware of how to shift her negative and pessimistic mindset to a more positive and optimistic mindset, how to identify what was in her control and what was not in her control, and what power she has in her thoughts and actions to direct her own future.
I gave this student the book, “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl because she was curious about psychology. The book is a memoir by a German psychologist who survived the Holocaust, and is about how he formed a transformative psychological theory about meaning and its power over a person’s life. It is one of my favorite books and one of the books that shaped me at a younger age. I wanted her to see how powerful the human mind is, and inspire her to continue her search for meaning in her own life.”
Orenda could not have been successful without the enthusiastic support of our students, parents and community. A number of parents volunteered to speak at our final session. They described the changes and growth they saw in their child and how impressed they were with the growth their teen experienced.
We are grateful to have been able to be a part of their child’s journey and hope to continue bringing our services to more families in the future.
If you are interested in learning more about participating in Orenda Academy, please fill out this link: Spring 2018 Interest Form.
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