When Julia Berg began volunteering at ASAP — Homes with Hope’s After School Academic Program — the summer after freshman year, she noticed that many of the children said things like, “I can’t do this” or “I’m no good at that.”
Julia wanted more positive messaging. She did some research, and found exercises to help. She realized that saying something as simple as “You can do this!” paid dividends.
She introduced “growth mindset vocabulary,” and outlined steps the boys and girls could take to establish goals, and change negative self-talk to positives talk.
Kids smiled more. And their schoolwork improved.
She spread the word to other volunteers. Now, Julia says, that positivity is an important part of the ASAP program.
She then created a second program. It targets problem-solving skills, and helps participants manage frustrations. The program includes self-evaluation, teaching the importance of understanding thoughts and feelings, and connecting that with decisions.
That’s not the only volunteer work the Staples High School junior does. She spends time at Norwalk’s George Washington Carver Community Center too, helping youngsters hone their educational and social skills.
She created a blog about the center, combining her interest in psychology, photography and writing while sharing the impact of Carver’s enrichment program.
In her spare time — when she’s not doing all that, and collaborating and competing with teammates on Staples’ robotics team — Julia is compiling a database of local programs. The goal is to help people locate needed resources easily, using categories like food pantries, shelters, medical clinics and public transportation.
Last year, during an Independent Learning Experience at Staples, Julia studied embedded systems theory. She created an alarm mechanism that plays tones and songs at specific intervals, as reminders for students with attention issues to get back on track.
Students like Julia make Westport, and neighboring communities, better places. That’s why she is our Unsung Hero this week.
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