"If I don’t, Ms. Reed will come pick me up," said the 14-year-old eighth-grader of East Hall Middle School’s graduation specialist, Anne Reed.
Reed is working with Mosqueda and other students like her who have had trouble at school with academics, attendance and behavior through a group she has helped form this year, Students Aiming for an Education Team.
"Research has shown that students who participate in extracurricular activities tend to progress better than those who do not participate," Reed said. "The SAFE Team provides an outlet for (East Hall Middle) students to engage in positive and challenging activities while accomplishing a sense of belonging."
Reed, who is retired from Hall County Juvenile Court after 25 years, was hired this year as the school’s graduation specialist.
The state created the job this year to help middle schools throughout Georgia get an earlier start in working with students struggling in school and at risk of eventually dropping out.
East Hall Middle identified 75 such students "by teacher, student and parent referral," Reed said.
School officials found that "most of our students have never been a part of any club or organization during their entire school career," she added.
Reed said the school no longer labels the students as "at risk." The students now are considered "under construction," which is the SAFE Team motto.
The team has participated in activities to reward their short-term goals that the members set for themselves each nine weeks.
For example, the students went on an outing to Skate Country to celebrate
They also have participated in individual and group counseling sessions to address issues such as team building, setting goals, building trust, anger management, stress management, proper social etiquette and strategies for improving academic performance.
Each student must earn the privilege to participate by meeting personal goals, with attendance and academics being the priorities.
"These students have worked really hard and while nobody has met perfection, they have certainly made strides in their own personal endeavors," Reed said.
LeCrisha Peyton, counselor to
seventh- and eighth-graders at the school, said the school is "very proud of this group of students."
"They work hard every day and pretty much all eyes are on them," she added. "It’s a lot of pressure, not just from their peers but from their teachers, their parents, the expectations. The bar just keeps rising as we’ve seen how much they’ve grown.
"Leaders have emerged from this group."
Students spoke candidly about past behaviors before joining the SAFE Team.
"I would always get in trouble. I would be really disrespectful. I barely came to school," Mosqueda said.
Eighth-grader Karli Dyer and seventh-grader Whitney Bryan had a lot of absences.
"I was having a lot of problems at school with my grades," said Kyle Haynes, an eighth-grader.
All said their school lives have much improved because of the team.
Students are setting long-term goals as well. Haynes wants to own a car business, Bryan wants to go to law school and Dyer and Mosqueda want to become hairdressers.
Haynes praised Reed for her work with students.
"She’s awesome. She’s been there to help everybody with grades and stuff," he said. "She’s just a good role model to everybody in the school. Everybody looks up to her as a teacher and friend to go talk to.
"... If she hadn’t come along, we wouldn’t have gotten our grades up or anything."