Five Star after school program to hold last event of 2013 Monday

Published 9:43 am Friday, November 29, 2013

The halls of Dowagiac Middle School will be slightly quieter on Monday afternoons next month, as the Five Star after school program will wrap-up its 2013 season next week with its fall awards ceremony.

Students will be given awards based on their academic achievements and progress since the beginning of the school year in September, said Dowagiac Middle School Principal Matt Severin. Parents and teachers are invited to watch the ceremony, which will take place at the conclusion of the day’s events.

“They really do it up,” Severin said. “It’s a really neat celebration.”

Following Monday’s program, the Five Star crew will take a brief hiatus through the month of December, before resuming again on Jan. 14 for another eight-week run. The after school program is separated into three “seasons” which throughout the entire academic calendar.

This year’s awards ceremony will be the school’s first to take place during fall. Severin and his administration first brought the program to the middle school last January, though the principal said he was first made aware of its existence three years ago.

“Whenever you hear about a program that will change the world, you become kind of skeptical,” Severin said. “I went into this very carefully, and by the second meeting I was blown away.”

The Five Star Life after school program, whose base of operations is located in Elkhart, Ind., is dedicated toward improving the academic and social lives of Michiana students, Severin said. In the nine years since it started, around 15 schools are now participating in the program.

In Dowagiac, “Coach” Casey Martin is in charge of corralling the school’s students every Monday afternoon, teaching them the program’s five core values: respect, responsibility, integrity, sacrifice and courage. Martin and his staff organize various activities for the young teens every week, ranging from games of dodge ball or basketball to picking up litter around the school grounds.

“It’s a good time for kids to decompress and talk to their friends,” Severin said.

Students also participate in team building exercises and listen to lectures, which typically incorporate current movies, music and social media trends to help draw today’s ultra-connected teens closer to the material.

“It’s a very high energy affair,” Severin said. “It’s always move, move, move. The kids don’t have time to get in trouble.”

While Martin and his staff encourages the students to let loose and have fun, they still maintain a core focus on the academic performance of their charges. The program encourages students to maintain a 3.0 GPA or higher, which staff helping students to improve their schoolwork if necessary.

Severin recalled several individual students whose academics improved because of their participation.

“One young lady, a sixth-grader, was crying because she had a failing grade and couldn’t join the others in the gym to play dodge ball,” Severin recalled. “[Martin] went over to her and said she could play dodge ball with her friends now and try to do her homework on her own later, or she could do her homework now. At first she headed over to the gym, but about halfway there she turned around and joined the others doing their homework.

“It was such a powerful moment for her,” Severin said. “[Martin] empowered her to make her own decision and she made the right one.”