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Posted: June 13, 2019, 12:00am by Kathleen Nelson-Simley
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Lessons Learned from Stories Told

One of the best parts of my job is hearing stories from All Stars teachers after they have taught the program. Some stories make me laugh. Some stories make me proud. Some stories make me cry.

But, every story teaches me (and you!) a lesson that impacts our work with kids, especially in All Stars.

Here are three stories recently shared with me that all have lessons to teach us:

Story #1: Making an Impact Beyond the Student

Chelsea was a young middle school student who participated in All Stars at her church. All Stars gave her the opportunity to think about her future in ways she never had before. Every week as she left her All Stars class she was challenged to have conversations with an important adult in her life. Chelsea could choose who the adult would be. She choose her mom and dad.

No one outside the family knew that Chelsea’s father was abusing alcohol. Chelsea’s involvement in All Stars gave her and both of her parents an opportunity to explore the role alcohol was playing in their lives. These discussions were the catalyst for her father to seek treatment for his alcohol problem. Within several months of Chelsea’s graduation from All Stars her father began his road of recovery from alcoholism.

Since then, Chelsea and her family have relocated twice to different states. Each re-location had her leaving a support group of drug-free friends behind and the challenge of seeking a new group of friends. As she has moved on in life, one thing has remained the same – an All Stars commitment ring on her finger. In fact, Chelsea has worn out two rings and is now wearing her third All Stars commitment ring.

The impact All Stars has had on Chelsea and her family has motivated her grandmother to become involved with the program. She now volunteers as a facilitator of All Stars at the church where Chelsea participated.

Even though Chelsea was the one who participated in All Stars, the program’s impact went beyond her and into the lives of her parents and grandmother. They will all be first to admit that All Stars has changed their lives – and for the better!

Lesson to be Learned from Chelsea’s Story: When you teach All Stars, don’t be satisfied with just delivering the program. Expect to change lives. Expect to change lives beyond just the student in All Stars. And, take time to get to know your students and their family situations and be ready to give support and encouragement wherever you can.

Story #2: It’s Never Too Early

As told by the All Stars teacher:

I received a phone call from Megan, one of my All Stars students, on the evening of our last day of school – the same day as our All Stars celebration. She was sobbing as she related her story. She was staying overnight with two of her friends when they pulled out a pack of cigarettes and a lighter. They pressured her to try to smoke which she didn’t want to do. She told her friends that she forgot her pajamas and ran to her home not far away. When she got there, she told her mother what happened and asked if she could call me. When I asked Megan why she choose not to smoke the cigarettes, she said, “All I could think about was the All Stars commitments I made to myself, to my mom and to you. It was so hard. I didn’t want to let myself or you down.”

I asked if she thought she would have smoked the cigarettes if they had not talked about it in All Stars and she said, “I think I would have tried it because my friends said nothing would happen if I did it. But because of All Stars I knew something would have happened and that would have been breaking my commitments.”

Lesson Learned: This teacher never could have anticipated how soon after All Stars her student would face pressure and how she would react to it. You never know how or when they will be faced with their first encounter. Experiencing All Stars later would have been too late. Luckily, All Stars happened at the right time! As the girl’s mother said, “Thank, God, for All Stars!”

Story #3: Are You Reaching the Mikes in All Stars?

This story was shared in writing with me by an All Stars teacher:

Mike is one of those kids who would please everyone if he could. The only reason he participated in All Stars was because a friend wanted him to. He seemed to be enjoying himself, but no one could ever tell what was really going on inside of him. He was one of the most quiet students in the group.

His parents came to the All Stars Celebration and sat in the very front row. During the commitment video segment, I noticed his mother wiping away tears. When I asked her later what was going on, I got the following story.

Mike’s best friend had tried pot and was caught by his parents. Not only was Mike able to tell us, but he also confided in us that he had been offered some, as well. We feel very strongly that had it not been for his participation in All Stars he would not have had the courage to stand up and say “no” or the open forum to discuss it with us.

They thanked me for letting him be a part of the group and told me they thought I and All Stars had a huge impact on Mike’s life – maybe even saving it.

I walked away from the evening ready to do it all over again.

Lesson Learned from Mike’s Story: Even the most quiet students, like Mike, can be impacted with All Stars. You never know how the program is reaching kids like him, but you have to trust and believe that it is. Deliver All Stars with an open mind, welcoming arms and patience. What you do in All Stars does change lives.

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