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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Athena's Path and Hero's Pursuit

By Rachel H

If there is one thing that scares me beyond belief, it is sending my kids to Middle School. I mentioned this last week in our Smarty Mom profile with Jenny Harris, and she had a good explanation of how children at this age are expected to be such adults, yet they really are still children. Hence, the “tweens”. If you have a middle school student now, or will have one in the future, you will find this article so inspiring.

Michelle Icard was featured as a Smarty Mom on Charlotte Smarty Pants, and ironically enough, her husband attended Middle School with me, back in the day when it was called “Junior High”! Those times were tough, but Michelle has developed two programs that I think are absolutely incredible and I truly hope we can implement them in our Triad middle schools by the time my children get there, if not much sooner.

Does it seem that the only equation you remember from middle school is: social stress + adolescence = major DRAMA? Times have changed, but this formula has not. The social stress of middle school continues to be a problem and can even diminish academic performance.

Athena’s Path and Hero’s Pursuit are middle school curriculums that teach kids how to manage those social situations that tend to dominate their thoughts, emotions and academic efforts. The programs gives boys and girls tools to tackle gossip, exclusion, bullying and peer pressure.

The program does not preach “right from wrong.” Instead, it teaches kids how to lead their own lives and make their own decisions, based on the values they’ve been taught. The program develops character, leadership and problem-solving skills by showing children how to reach their own conclusions.

You can read more about the programs from their websites at: and You will see many great letters on the websites written by students who have experiences these programs first hand. I loved this one by Annie, “I probably liked the Happiness Journals most of Athena’s Path. They made me take time during the day to appreciate things that make me happy. I also liked the role playing we did along with actually practicing what we were learning. I learned how to exit an unhealthy relationship, the importance of self-confidence, what my values are, and who I should look up to (role models). I also learned the proper way of shaking hands, giving and receiving compliments, and how to respond when something negative is said right to your face. I learned so many valuable lessons at Athena’s Path that will last me a lifetime.”

Athena’s Path and Hero’s Pursuit have been taught in schools and summer camps in Charlotte for the last five years. They have also been taught in elementary schools to fifth graders, in anticipation of middle school. Trinity Academy is the first in the Raleigh area to implement the curriculum. How awesome would it be to have this program in the Triad?

The principal, Will Leach, at Alexander Graham Middle School in Charlotte had this to say, "What brought Athena's Path to Alexander Graham was during my first two years here. I really saw a need for this type of program. Middle School can be a very difficult time for adolescents, especially girls. If we can provide the social support, it will no doubt help academically. I had also heard great things about the program from my colleagues. Once I had the opportunity the meet Michelle and hear her passion and commitment, I was sold. The response from our parents has been tremendous! Our PTA was sold immediately and chose to fully fund the program. We originally decided to just offer the program for 6th and 7th grade students. But, the demand was so great that we added it to the 8th grade schedule."

If you would like your school to offer Athena’s Path and/or Hero’s Pursuit, contact Michelle Icard at I think this curriculum is one that is so important. Let’s give our kids a Middle School experience that they can enjoy and remember as a wonderful one.


Kari Foster Allison said...

Thank you for this wonderful ray of hope! I am very concerned (aka scared to death) about making the right middle school choice for my 5th grade daughter. I would love to see this program implemented as she begins middle school next year!

Teresa said...

This is outstanding! If anyone knows a Middle School principal and can pass this link along, it would be great. My children are still in 1st and 2nd grades, so we are not there quite yet, but I would love to see this started in our area.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic! My chldren are now in high school, but I wish something like this had been around a few years ago. Michelle is exactly right that social directly affects academic.

Maythi said...

I wish we could go back to junior high/senior high. Can anything be done about that? I completely think a 9th grader has no business being in the same environment as a 12th grader. We should consider going back to K-6/7-9/10-12.

However, since that probably will never happen, it's nice to know these programs are being implemented to help our middle schoolers. Middle school is absolutely not what it used to be -although we all went through some turmoil in middle school, it seems to be much worse these days.

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