After just two full years on the market, a Forsyth County mom’s study and social skills program is taking off nationwide.
Julie Wilson, of Cumming, recently released the third iteration of iStudyforSuccess, a web-based program created to give students study and reading strategies as well as character-building skills necessary for long-term educational and personal success.
The program has reached 35 states and has an 80-percent renewal rate, with schools, children’s programs and teen leadership courses taking advantage of Wilson’s tools.
However, iStudyforSuccess wasn’t always as widespread as it is now.
The program began in a single, sixth-grade classroom at Piney Grove Middle School during the 2012-13 schoolyear.
“I actually sat in the classroom for four semesters receiving incredible input from teachers, administration, parents and most importantly, the students,” Wilson said. “We finessed the program, finished up those semesters and then did a soft release just in Georgia a year later.”
That release only included the study skills portion of the program, given Wilson had not yet come up with the idea for a social skills aspect.
So, in the 2013-14 schoolyear, Forsyth County and other counties across Georgia had access to part one of the program.
The study skills portion of the program is broken up into 25 sessions, “crafted specifically to expand the reading comprehension, the critical thinking and improve the study habits essential for that long-term success,” said Wilson.
It also focuses on time management and organization, which, Wilson emphasized, are essential in every aspect of life.
Too often, however, she said, the social and emotional components also key to success are not focused on enough.
“We require [physical education;] every student has to take P.E.,” Wilson said. “But yet we can’t require study skills and social soft skills. It kind of is baffling that we work on [students’] physical beings but their mental being gets [an] ‘eh?’”
To highlight the emotional skills, in 2014, Wilson and her team created the social soft skills portion of the program, which is comprised of 28 “character building mini-sessions,” their website says.
These include topics centered on empathy versus sympathy, respect, commitment and timeliness and perseverance, among others.
And this, Wilson said, is really where she has seen the program take off.
“Because it was piloted in the sixth grade, a lot of people thought it was just for middle school,” she said. “Then we had some fourth and fifth grades pick it up, and then when we added in the social soft skills component, we found out high schools were utilizing it too.”
“It was the addition of the social soft skills course that took us off,” she added.
Now, public, private, charter and home schools across the country are using Wilson’s program.
It’s expanded to other organizations, too, she said.
“It’s either being taught as a full-semester class, integrated into yearlong core courses – media centers, counseling departments – and it’s even been picked up by after school and specialty programs,” said Wilson. “It’s even [being] used as youth enrichment at YMCAs.”
In part, Wilson credits this to the program’s ease of use and low cost.
“Knowing teachers’ time is valuable, we took both those courses and designed them in a complete step-by-step layout,” she said. “I once had a teacher tell me that we should have called it ‘iStudyforSuccess for dummies.’”
“There’s no course planning or training required, so these teachers can literally walk right in and teach and don’t have to take time out at night to go through what they’re going to use for materials. That’s the beauty of the program,” she added.
She also thinks this is why iStudyforSuccess is spreading quickly through the nation.
“That’s really where we’re getting the most response, is the fact that [teachers] can just purchase it at one cost for the entire school year and they don’t have to do anything else,” she said.
The program can be bought and renewed as early as July 1 each year and expires June 30 of the following year. Its $195 cost includes all materials, the yearlong content license and program flexibility.
And though much of the program remains the same year to year, Wilson and her team do alter it slightly as new research details improved test-taking and study skills.
For the months of September and October, 10 percent of iStudyforSuccess’s proceeds are going to three children’s cancer research foundations: Make-A-Wish Foundation, CURE Childhood Cancer and the Rally Foundation, a local organization.
“We really appreciate the support we have received over the years in Forsyth County and want to give back and support those affected by Childhood Cancer in our area,” Wilson said.
For more information on iStudyforSuccess, visit http://istudyforsuccess.com/.