Maggie Pieper is more than just a familiar face at Stride. She’s often the first face you see as you walk through the doors while she takes students’ temperatures as they enter the building. You can also find her supporting students in the homework center, writing emails in the common area, or working with one of her students in a classroom. Maggie has had a unique Stride experience; she is currently a mentor, but she has also been a student.
Similarly to many students, Maggie has anxiety, which has affected her life both socially and academically—making school a difficult experience. She was diagnosed with anxiety when she was 7 and struggled through school for most of her life. She shared that “If it weren’t for Brandon, I would have dropped out of high school my sophomore year. I kept saying, ‘I’m dropping out,’ but Brandon would just reply ‘No, you’re not.’’’ This support helped her graduate from high school a semester early.
Maggie started working with Brandon at the beginning of her 9th grade year, before Stride was what we know it to be now: a multi-employee business with a physical center. When asked if she ever thought she would be a mentor, Maggie replied, “No, I really didn’t.” In high school, Maggie’s main goal was to just pass her classes so she could graduate. She added that, “Without Brandon’s help, I probably wouldn’t be where I am now with the confidence I have.” Brandon helped her develop systems that worked for her, including introducing her to boxing: something she still incorporates into her daily routine. Maggie said, “Having exercise in my life really helps me stay focused and feel good, I notice a difference when I miss a day.” Even though sport-specific exercise is not for all students, every student can find a key activity that provides a break and helps them refocus and stay attentive—even if it’s just going for a 10 minute walk or taking 15 minutes to draw. Executive function coaching also helped Maggie learn how to set a weekly schedule and daily routine, which are skills she now helps her own students learn.
Maggie has seen firsthand how much a weekly plan can help a student. When she worked with Brandon as a student, he helped her gain independence in creating her plans, which now helps her provide great support to her students while they plan out their weeks. Having dealt with anxiety and disliking school as a student, Maggie explains, “I’m able to really empathize with my students, understand where they are coming from, and help them find systems to alleviate some of their anxieties.” She understands the impact that anxiety has on a student’s life, and how it can thwart their success.
After her experience as both a student and mentor at Stride, she has a lot of valuable insight into how mentors and parents can help students succeed. She advises parents to have patience with their students. Most students understand that their academic success milestones may not be conventional, but letting your student know you understand where they’re coming from opens an honest dialogue. Strict discipline can cause many students more anxiety and further discourage them from wanting to follow through on task initiation and completion. Her advice to students is similar: have patience with yourself. Not all students get straight As, and that’s okay. It doesn’t affect your personal value at all. Students just need to work toward goals that make sense for them, and that’s not always attending Ivy League schools or graduating with a 4.5 GPA. Maggie emphasizes that all students work differently and have different paths. “Not every student needs to go straight to a four-year college, or any college for that matter. Everyone’s situation is unique, and it’s okay if college isn’t the goal for everyone.” she says, speaking from her own experience. Maggie took a break from academics for a year and a half, and knew that a traditional college environment was not the right fit for her. She is currently enrolled in EMT certification courses.
Although not far out of high school herself, Maggie offers so much wisdom to both parents and students. She says, “It’s important to understand that the process should be emphasized in education and that we don’t need to compare ourselves against the conventions of society.” Stride not only provides an environment where parents and students can feel a sense of community and understanding that they are not alone, but the mentoring program helps students to develop effective systems that work for them. When asked about what she wishes she had known as a student, she responded, “There are a lot of other students who struggle in school—know that it’s not just you. It’s okay if you’re facing challenges. Remember that academic success does not define your self-worth. We all face challenges.”