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The City Journals

South Jordan Middle introduces motivational academic support program

Jul 25, 2017 05:06PM ● By Julie Slama

Former University of Utah, Weber State University and NBA basketball player and now motivational speaker Lance Allred poses with South Jordan Middle School’s staff and faculty after inspiring struggling students. (Timothy Heumann/South Jordan Middle School)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]
During the fourth quarter of the school year, several South Jordan Middle School students were invited to participate in the newly created 4-for-4 academic support program.
“I wanted to do something to help students who were struggling academically, to help them boost their work, to recognize them for their efforts and improve,” said Assistant Principal Timothy Heumann.
After attending a program created to rejuvenate educators that was created in the Jordan School District-Brigham Young University partnership, Heumann along with teachers Kate Hinlinson and Brian Browther, decided to become advocates and help struggling students. They attended a conference in Tennessee to learn how to refine practices and look for ideas to create a program that would work at South Jordan Middle School.
The program was created out of that, which involves meeting with students four times during that fourth quarter, hence the name 4-for-4.
“We invited students who had multiple failing grades for multiple quarters and asked what they wanted — how they wanted to be rewarded, what would motivate them, how we could support them, what their goals are and then created an intervention time to work with them,” he said.
Although data showing if there was improvement with the students’ fourth-quarter grades wasn’t available as of press deadline, 22 students choose to participate in the program that was designed to help them.
To kick off the program, Heumann invited former University of Utah and Weber State University basketball player Lance Allred, who now is a motivational speaker.
“He basically put it down as a choice for them,” Heumann said. “He said you can choose your path — to do better and change the direction of your life.”
Allred shared with students his life — how he came out of a polygamous family in Montana as a deaf, lanky student who didn’t fit in. However, he shared his life story of how he changed his life to ultimately become the first legally deaf player in the NBA, playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
“He talked to the kids for about 45 minutes, and during that time, one girl doodled around the word ‘choice.,’” Heumann said. “After he was done, she gave it to him, and it was quite emotional when he realized he connected with her and thanked her for listening.”
During that session, counselors and administrators were there to support the program, thanks to about 20 parent volunteers who came to cover the usual lunchroom supervision.
“They felt it was that important to students in their school to receive the support they needed. It was really meaningful,” Heumann said.
Other 25-minute sessions, held during the school’s intervention time, included watching some YouTube motivational videos, such as Caine’s Arcade.
“We want them to realize if they pushed a little harder, they could see how much better they could do and how it could help them lead toward what they may want to do in their lives,” Heumann  said.
The team also gave them rewards the students chose — mostly soda, chips and candy bars — if they achieved benchmarks, such as 75 percent of their work turned in.
“We had kids motivated to do more and teachers there supporting them,” Heumann  said, as he added the program will continue this coming fall. “My heart goes out to these struggling students who need support, and I’m hoping we’re helping them and showing them we care.”