27 Southampton Middle students medal in 2013 Marathon of Achievement

For one student, it took learning to strategize to make it through. Another became noticeably more responsible in all aspects of life. Yet another learned that time management and goal-setting lead to success. Each of them, along with 24 of their peers, used these new skills to cross the finish line in this year's Marathon of Achievement.

The Marathon of Achievement, or MOA, is a way for the students to excel outside of their regular studies. Created more than a decade ago by Southampton Team 7D teachers, the goal is to challenge students with academic, cultural and character building exercises that offer each of them a chance to be a winner. Students are given a list of 30 possible activities; they must choose and complete 26 in six months in addition to their regular studies and activities. This year, 27 students from Southampton Middle School Team 7D were honored at a banquet sponsored by HAR-CO Federal Credit Union for completing the 2013 Marathon of Achievement.

MOA is open to all Team 7D students but it's not an easy task. Students, their families and the Team 7D teachers all must take a great deal of time and effort to cross the finish line. Of the 110 students in Team 7D this year, 50 began the Marathon, but just over half finished.

"It's very gratifying to see the delight in the faces of the students at the banquet when they are recognized for their accomplishment," said Bill Carpenter of Team 7D, one of the original creators of MOA. "But it's even more important to create an arena in which those who choose to can challenge themselves to achieve and grow in ways that are not typically offered through their regular school experience. MOA builds confidence that a challenging megatask can be done and done successfully. In a way it's a confirmation to the students that the tough tasks in life that lie ahead can be achieved with goal setting, diligence, time management and the support of others."

Students sign up for MOA in October of the school year. Their first task is due in November. By February they must be halfway done – typically half or more students drop out at this point - and they finish up in May. All of the work must be completed outside the school day's requirements. Some of the challenges included community service and cultural education events, map memorization, giving up TV for a full week or creating a board game including at least 26 language arts facts. Many of the tasks focus on community service and cultural education.

Team 7D Language Arts Instructor Robin Kelly explains, "This helps them set themselves apart and allows them to kind of begin building a resume and understanding how setting and reaching goals is very important for their future."

Because MOA activities take place outside of school, the event involves the whole family. One parent, John Caspero, explained MOA this way: "This teaches lessons of perseverance, lessons of striving for a goal, and it takes commitment on both the parent's and student's part. Not many seventh-graders can lay out a plan and follow through with it. Parents definitely need to be committed to helping out when things get a bit more difficult."

His daughter, Julia Caspero, agreed. "In the beginning it was hard, but I learned to strategize and follow the plan and manage my time. Sometimes I'd get to soccer games a little late and had to give up a little free time, but it was definitely worth it to finish."

Jonathan Cote also learned from participating in MOA. "It was about as hard as I expected, but it never got too overwhelming," he said. "I learned to manage my time and just do what needed to be done when it needed to be done."

His mother, Ann Marie Cote, felt participating in the marathon changed Jonathan in a good way. "He did a lot independently, and has definitely become more responsible as a result of this. He had to cook several meals as part of his community service, and it turned out he liked it. Last week, he volunteered to make meat loaf at home."

All of the students who make it to the end of the marathon receive special medals at a banquet reception that is the culmination of the event. The banquet has been sponsored by HAR-CO Federal Credit Union since the program's inception. "The Marathon of Achievement banquet is one of the events I most enjoy during the year from our business partnership with Southampton Middle School," said Diane Moore, public relations specialist with HAR-CO. "The students, and their families and teachers, work so hard to get to the end it's always a special occasion to celebrate their achievement."

The 2013 Marathon of Achievement Medal Recipients are Jake Burrows, Christina Capozzoli, Julia Caspero, Jon Cote, Emily Cowie, Adam Del Colliano, Emily DeNardi, Elizabeth Ehrhardt, Caroline Eilman, Caroline Ervin, Cassie Firestone, Katherine Frailer, Sarah Green, Caitlin Haren, Timothy Haren, Caroline Hurtt, Ava Krivosh, Jordan Landsman, Caroline McPhail, Emma Potthast, Bailee Richman, Jessica Rogers, Alison Smith, Moriah Snyder, Olivia Thrush, Catherine Uhland and Adriana Valentin.

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