I Give it 5 Stars

What does it mean to live a five star life?  Is it a life filled with passion, excitement, and success?  Thanks to a great program in the Michiana area, there are many students who can answer this question.  These students are members of the Five Star Life family.  Five Star Life is a not-for-profit organization that focuses on improving middle school students through leadership development sessions and coaching.  Five Star offers on-site leadership events after school in eight school districts and thirteen schools across Northern Indiana.  These programs are impacting more than 1,100 students each and every week.  It is a first-come-first-serve program in which the students enroll voluntarily at no charge.  It is a program in high demand because it is fun, exciting, and impactful.

The Five Star curriculum is guided by five core values:

  • Respect
  • Integrity
  • Sacrifice
  • Courage
  • Responsibility

Everything they do is centered around these give core values.  Five Star believes that when individuals are secure in these values, they are fearless, eager, and key contributors in their communities.  By focusing on teaching students these values during their most vulnerable middle school years, Five Star helps students excel academically while encouraging to reach their full potential.

I had the opportunity to attend the Five Star session on a Thursday afternoon at Jackson Intermediate School in South Bend.  As I entered the school, you could hear loud music and cheering down the hall.  To enter the cafeteria, I had to go through The Gauntlet.  The Gauntlet was a tunnel made up of volunteers and students, with high-fives and cheering.  It was obvious at that point what the level of energy was going to be during the session.  The atmosphere was electric as head coach Casey led the students in games.  115 middle school students in one place, completely engaged in what was happening. The first hour of the session was geared around games and discussion from the previous week’s topic. The agenda was created to have the students release after school energy first before jumping into the key learning time.  The students have options to choose from in regards to fun.  On this particular day they could play cornhole, dodgeball, knockout, or participate in Five Star Fitness.  In an effort to create academic accountability, students who know they have to improve grades work on homework in place of the games.   During the second hour, the students were given a high energy talk, titled “Born to Honor your Parents.”  The talk was followed by journal and discussion time.  This time was focused around the topic of honoring your parents and gives the students an opportunity to talk and put into use what they learned.  The students have discussions with their small team of students.  They are challenged by a volunteer coach, as well as peers, to rise above all barriers that may hold them back.

The session at Jackson was inspiring.  The program and curriculum were informative, educational, and exciting.  The passion that the staff and volunteers of Five Star exhibit was contagious.  After a few minutes of being in the room, I found myself engaged and asking how I can get more involved.  It was great to see so many students who voluntarily stayed after school to participate in the program.  It was very obvious to me why they were there.  Justin, President of Five Star, was a great source of information.  He shared with me stories of abuse, rape, and drugs that were brought up in discussion by students in the program.  The students feel safe in the environment which leads to life changing experiences.  The program empowers students to be leaders and speak up against what is wrong.  Some students have changed friends because they do not want to go down the path of trouble.  Many of those students eventually get their friends to join Five Star in an attempt to help them.

I am grateful that I had the opportunity to spend some time with Five Star Life at Jackson Intermediate School.  This volunteer experience was different from what I am used to.  I was more of an observer than a volunteer on this particular day.  Five Star takes all of its volunteers through training to ensure that they are teaching and modeling the values that are the core of the program.  I only spent two hours with them, but it was definitely enough time to understand the impact that they have on the youth of Michiana.  Five Star needs help to continue its mission of serving students.  There are hundreds of students who are turned away each year because there are not enough volunteer coaches.  In addition to volunteers, Five Star needs funding to continue to offer their program at no cost to students.  You can learn more about this great organization at www.fivestarlife.org.  If you live within the area they serve, I encourage you to get involved.  You will be energized by the mission, staff, volunteers, and students.  I know that I was energized and inspired.  That is why I give them five stars!

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