Much of our journey was an uphill battle. We had to convince administrators that what their students were lacking in their education was social emotional components, and those gaps distract them from learning. After proving ourselves with a pilot program, which normally consists of a shortened version of our semester long program, a camp and a social outing with other students within our program, administrators were convinced. I remember the first school that volunteered to contract with us the following school year. We had done a pilot program and within the first three sessions over the course of several weeks they had already seen a marked difference in the students that were a part of our program. Not just in the realm of school work, but also their attitudes and countenance were different. The principle was unsure where the money was coming from, but she knew that we had to be at her school the next year and beyond. While there were a thousand tiny steps, It marked a turn in our history, at least from where I was standing.
WE HEAD TO LAKE COUNTY | We no longer had to plea and convince, we now had a reputation that was substantial. It wasn’t too long after that we received a request from an organization in Lake County, California. It was a youth health coalition working to help the students of lake county become healthier. Much of this was in response to the many suicides among youth in their area as well as high rate of drug use, families earning under the poverty line, high rates of depression and many other dismal statistics that I hate even discussing. While I didn’t think anything would come of it, Jeff traveled to them for a meeting with the coalition to present what StudentReach had to offer. The meeting went surprisingly well. It almost seemed to go too well. They were ecstatic. They had begun the planning stage of how to roll out in their area. I was not too hopeful as I had been a part of many positive meetings that left me with disappointment in the past, so I tempered any ounce of excitement to lessen the blow of the impending let down that was waiting to meet me. It took some time to get any definite answers from them for a while. When Jeff would update us I still wasn’t confident anything would come from it, but Jeff continued to push it. When they called to have a second meeting, Jeff invited me to join. I agreed because I wanted to hear what I needed to hear to discount any perceived opportunity that was out there. As Jeff and I met with the principal and vice principle of a middle school in Clear Lake, which is part of lake county, my heart started breaking for the students in that school, in that town and in that county.
NEW COACHES HELP MORE STUDENTS | Before going I didn’t understand why Jeff seemed so fixated on starting a program in lake county, but after hearing the need I understood. It didn’t matter that it was an over two hour drive each way, or at the time there may or may not have been funding or a dozen other possible objections that I could have come up with, we needed to be here. We set the start dates in late fall for a pilot program as well as training for local coaches. As much as I would have loved to commute over two hours everyday, we needed local coaches who could be there for the youth even outside of program times. From that training, we had three head coaches rise-up to be a part of the program and several people interested in being assistant coaches. After the success of the pilot program, the youth health coalition gathered funding to add two more schools the following semester. It was clear that we needed boots on the ground, so we recruited Loren Freeman.