STARS reach for success
Last week passed like every other at Davidson County Community College. For 27 Davidson County middle school students, however, the week brought five days of memories and that will last a lifetime.
Laura Dockery, owner and operator of Event Planning Done Right in Thomasville, attended both the STARS Academy and Bernard H. Leadership Academy as a middle school student. Fifteen years later, she comes back to help with STARS and continues to see the dividends from the camp she enjoyed as a little girl.
"It was a blessing to me. I met a girl from North Davidson who I would not have met under any other circumstances," Dockery said. "It's been 15 years and we're still friends. For Logan, my son, to come here and learn the skills it takes to run your own business, become professional and work with other people, it helps out tremendously in my opinion."
The closing ceremony for the 18th annual "STARS" Academy was held Friday, July 26, at DCCC.
STARS, or Students Teaching and Reaching for Success, is a summer program hosted by the Davidson County Education Foundation which helps rising seventh grade students hone leadership skills through small and large team-building group activities. Greg Collins, a guidance counselor at Central Davidson Middle School, served as STARS coordinator for a fifth consecutive summer.
"It's good for the kids. Since you have all the county schools represented, they get to meet each other and get past stereotypes of what I've heard about this area or that area," Collins said. "They get to know, hey, there are good people everywhere and they're just like me, trying to get through middle school. They really form those bonds that can last the rest of the year."
In some cases, the bonds stretch far beyond the end the school year.
Laura Koonts, administrative director of the program, greets each summer session with excitement. Koonts returns year after year to oversee the camp because of the impact the program resonates with students. She offered an example of what she believes the program is all about.
"I heard one kid say, 'When I came into this, I thought my opinion was always right, but I found out this week that I could listen to everybody else,'" Koonts said.
Dr. Fred Mock, superintendent of Davidson County Schools, honored each participant with a certificate he presented to them for completing what he says is "one of the most important things we do in Davidson County." The Davidson County Education Foundation manages more than 30 scholarships for high school seniors and offers STARS Academy and Bernard H. Thomas Leadership Academy each year.
"The exciting part is that you get to see, even in a five-day period, the growth of kids," Collins said. "Their comfort level goes from withdrawn or timid to involved, and their ideas count and matter. They learn how to operate with their strengths in a small group, in a large group, to be a positive contributor.
"It's like a 180 with some of these kids. They just turn it around and blossom into something they didn't know they could be."
Staff Writer Daniel Kennedy can be reached at 888-3575, or firstname.lastname@example.org.