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Rotary program helps put students back on track

Farmington High School graduate Nick Patton talked to potential STRIVE members last week about the ways the program helped him get his academic career back on track.1 / 2
Rotary member Jamie Thompson talks with one of this year's potential STRIVE students. The STRIVE program has helped several students achieve things they didn't think they could.2 / 2

Nick Patton is the first to tell you he almost didn't graduate from high school last year. He's kind of proud to tell you about it.

He's not advocating flunking out of school. It's actually quite the opposite. Patton is proud to say he was able to get his life together and graduate with the Farmington High School Class of 2010. And he credits the Farmington Rotary Club for helping him make that happen.

At age 19, Patton is now in his first year at Inver Hills Community College. The guy who struggled with grades last year, who pulled a 2.5 grade point average at FHS, started his college career with a 3.3 GPA. And he's anxious to share his motivation with FHS teens who are now where he was just a year ago.

Patton is one of the success stories from a Rotary program called Students Taking Renewed Interest Valuing Education. STRIVE made such an impact on Patton's life, he came to a meeting last week to share his story.

Trouble in school

STRIVE is designed to help students like Patton - the seniors who have fallen behind in schoolwork, who don't like certain teachers, who are procrastinators or who really don't have goals in life. Patton's the first to admit he was guilty on more than one of those qualities going into his senior year.

But Patton wanted to graduate with his classmates. His academic record wasn't stellar, but he knew he wanted to make his parents proud, and he knew he wanted to be proud of himself.

In October of his senior year, Patton's school counselor, Jerry Pfau, told him about STRIVE, and how the program could help.

"He said they could help me set up a life plan," Patton said. "Once it got started, I came every possible week I could."

STRIVE mentors Jamie Thompson and Joe Folz hope students this year will be as enthusiastic as Patton was. They started the STRIVE program for the 2011 seniors just a few weeks ago. At first, no one responded to their invitations. Then, they asked the high school counselors to intervene - and bought some cookies, for good measure - and got about 25 students. Folz expects the group will even out at about a dozen students who are willing to participate through the end of the school year.

Before the room of 25 or so last week, Thompson talked about some of the things students can learn through STRIVE. He acknowledged that outside influences like family situations can jeopardize concentration, or that or interpersonal conflicts with teachers can make a student want to skip the class altogether. But most of all, he talked about goal setting, and beating procrastination.

"How many of you make a list of goals weekly?" Thompson asked. When he received little response, he simple asked the students, "If you don't know where you want to go, how do you know when you get there?"

For Patton, goal-setting was perhaps the most positive thing he took away from STRIVE last year.

"They told me, writing down goals is the biggest thing. Goals are the basics of any plan. If you don't have goals, you plan for failure," Patton said.

He set goals. He didn't always want to do his homework, but he wanted to graduate and knew he wouldn't do it by procrastinating on assignments. He talked to the teachers he didn't get along with and he got his work done.

Before long, it was right down to the end of the school year, and Patton waited to hear if his efforts had paid off. At what seemed to be the last minute to him, Patton learned he would graduate.

"It was a big reality check for me," he said. "I realized that if I don't start focusing, I'm not going to get anywhere in life. I'm not going to be successful."

Sharing wisdom

So there Patton sat, surrounded by a few kids he knew and others he didn't, telling them why they should participate in STRIVE. It was something he'd wanted to do since graduating. Patton wants to help others the way the Rotarians helped him.

"As long as I'm at Inver and my schedule allows, I'll do anything for STRIVE right now," he said.

That might be difficult soon. Patton has been accepted at the University of Minnesota Duluth. He wants to study economics at UMD, or maybe St. Cloud State University, after he gets his generals done at Inver Hills.

"STRIVE was one of the greatest things in my life, and I'm not just saying that because they were here today," he said. "It was the biggest turning point in my life."

That's what the program is all about, Thompson said. Setting goals, time management, and above all, building self-confidence.

STRIVE meetings are held on a weekly basis at FHS. Students who may be interested in participating should see their counselors for referrals.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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