Dowagiac Middle School Principal Matt Severin greets Five Star Life COO Seth Maust. (Leader photo/JOHN EBY)

Archived Story

DMS steps up to Five Star Life

Published 8:58pm Thursday, November 15, 2012

Every 12 seconds of every school day, another student drops out.

That’s 7,000 students each school day, or more people than live in Dowagiac.

Eighty percent of first-time drug, alcohol or tobacco use happens between ages 10 and 14.

Eighty percent of first-time drug, alcohol or tobacco use happens between 3 and 6 p.m.

Eighty-five percent of all juvenile crime takes place between 2 and 7 p.m.

Statistics indicate middle school and after school are where students slip through the cracks and check out before dropping out in high school.

Dowagiac Middle School is becoming the 15th school to participate in Five Star Life, a program started in Elkhart, Ind.

Five Star denotes the best of the best, be it hotels, restaurants or vehicles.

Five Star Life started targeting middle school students eight years ago in one school with 50 students and a handful of volunteer coaches and grew into 15 schools and more than 300 volunteers serving 2,600 students in Michigan and Indiana through weekly after-school programs.

The group meets for two hours after school each Friday. Each “season” lasts eight weeks, but Dowagiac missed fall so will have two, winter and spring, for 100 students.

Five Star CEO Seth Maust and DMS Principal Matt Severin visited Dowagiac Rotary Club Thursday seeking 15 mentors and financial support as the guests of Heather McDougall, pastor of Silver Creek and Keeler United Methodist Churches.

Middle schoolers more than in way

“I wanted to see data before jumping in,” Severin said. “We’ve had frank conversations since we started talking two years ago. Seth’s answers always pleased me, and we saw it in action in Three Rivers. I want my kids to graduate as good people who do the right thing. Five Star has a plan for training volunteers. You can’t talk at middle schoolers for 20 minutes. They want things to happen. We’re bringing in positive role models not just for the success of our students, but of our community. If our kids thrive and get good jobs, they will come back to us.

“Middle-schoolers have a bad rap because they’re always in your way when you go downtown. They don’t have to go home, but they can’t drive somewhere else. My kids do some wonderful things our community doesn’t always get to see. Seventh- and eighth-graders were really inspired by Rachel’s Challenge. Kara Cox, my counselor, has so many kids for the club they won’t all fit at one time. Students are already making paper chains to pay it forward. My kids are pumped up, but this will not thrive without community support.”

Five Star Life costs $25,000, of which the school committed $5,000.

“It’s like a party after school,” Maust said, with music, a video projector, pizza, subs and snacks, activities such as dodge ball and basketball and a staffer to assist coaches.

Core values are introduced, with students writing in journals to process what they hear. And there are challenges, such as this week, pick the teacher you have the worst relationship with, find three unusual ways to honor them and see how that impacts your time in that class.


Academic accountability

“Values are powerful, but people change people’s lives,” Maust said. “More is caught than taught. Students will catch more from coaches than just hearing what we talk about. Families are disintegrating, so we place positive people in there to coach the game of life. Memorial Hospital Foundation in South Bend gave us a grant and found over three years that the longer students were in Five Star, the higher their grades, with less behavior problems in school and better attendance. Last year, 74 percent of students in Five Star raised their GPA or maintained 3.0 or above. Grades rise because coaches hold them accountable academically. Nobody wants to be a loser, but not everybody has someone to look them in the eye and believe in them.”

Tiffany tempted the “eternal optimist” to write her off in sixth grade. Now, she’s a junior earning straight A’s and a Five Star coach who shed 70 pounds. “Her mom walked out when she was 8, but a female coach stepped in,” Maust said.

Five Star conducts camps all summer at its Sturgis ranch with a 600-foot zip line, fishing, archery and horseback riding.





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