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With the New Year came new aspirations, goals and optimism.  The First Star Greater Washington Academy met in January to participate in a High School Graduation and Transition Workshop focusing on what lies ahead for our amazing young people.  Working with the Child and Family Services Agency, Office of Youth Empowerment for curriculum content and Deloitte for volunteer staff, FSGWA outlined examples of the challenges the youth will face in the upcoming year as seniors.  The students received a detailed list of things to be completed month by month so the process would not become overwhelming.

Students arrived around 9:30am either by way of the metro or supportive members of community who offered rides.  Once we were all together, our Deloitte volunteers and Mentors checked in with the students about life and what they had done over the long Holiday Break.  Everyone was delighted to catch up after many weeks of not seeing each other and traveling for holiday events.

The students broke into small groups to review vocabulary and study with FSGWA mentors and Deloitte volunteers before the quizzes were handed out.  Once finished with both quizzes, each student was reminded of the performance they were attending at the Kennedy Center in January.  The youth were given the choice of either Matilda on January 10th or Olivero on January 30th, thanks to the generosity of the Kennedy Center.

We then listened to our seniors talk about the feelings they experienced while living through the college application process this year.  We also had a special guest, FSGWA graduated youth Asia Moore, who also shared what it was like in her senior year of high school and the transistion she made to Prince George’s County Community College.  Everyone seemed to pay a little more attention to the words of a peer.

At 11:00pm FSGWA Program Director, Brian Ritchey, and Education Director, Teresa Zutter, began the day’s workshop.  Taking turns, we went through the overall challenges youth face during the college application process and the strategies that one can use to make life easier and less stressful.  Starting Junior year with taking either the SAT or ACT and discovering what areas to focus on for studying, and then to choose reach, best fit, and back up schools.  Learning to research each school so they could be fit into the specific category was discussed at length.  We looked at Career Centers, counselors, college fairs, websites and more for scholarship opportunities and financial aid resources.  At the end of our open forum, each youth sat and went through a basic chart based on their grade level that allowed them to see where they stood regarding things they should complete by the end of the year.

Afterwards, we broke for lunch and birthday celebrations, followed by a New Year’s Resolution activity.  Each youth filled out a short 3 page booklet.  On the first page they gave information about themselves, then on the second page they reflected on the past year.  What their greatest lesson learned, hardest thing they overcame, their favorite memory, and biggest takeaway from 2015.  On the third page they filled out what they were looking forward to in 2016.  What they wanted to learn, what they wanted to improve upon, and then 3 specific goals for the upcoming year.  Once everyone had completed a booklet, pairs were created to share.  Giving feedback on how to accomplish the stated goals and to reminisce on 2015.  A few individuals shared with the group and asked us all to hold them accountable to accomplish their goals.

At the end of the day, everyone gathered their belongings and said their goodbyes before heading home around 3:00pm.  With renewed encouragement and drive we all left feeling good about our New Year’s Resolutions and making them happen this year.  More than that, each youth had a plan for their own graduation track and some research to do on their own plans after high school.

With warmth and compassion,

Brian Ritchey
Program Director