Lifetime of future success for at-risk kids in Apple Valley

Closing the achievement gap is challenge for educators across Minnesota, but a middle school in Apple Valley believes they created a program that can help turn at-risk middle school students into future leaders. The Quest Program is a pilot program that launched this fall, and just one semester in, educators saw big changes in the kids involved.

Learning to tie a neck tie is just a small part of the program that's making a much bigger difference than expected. Twice a week, the group of sixth-graders gather at Valley Middle School with Jamell Tidwell and Jadee Jones -- brother of Duke standout and now NBA Draft prospect Tyus Jones. Their family knows a little something about success through hard work. The goal of the program sings a similar tune: Set boys up for a lifetime of future success by working with them during this impressionable transition time.

"Anything that puts them in that at-risk category -- free or reduced lunch, single-parent home, minority family, low achievement scores things like that," Jones said regarding the kids in the program.

"The older they get, the more experiences they have that reinforce whatever it is that they believe. So if they have gone down a negative road, it's harder to unlock that type of mindset and unlock that identity in them without being able to catch them at a transition period," he continued.

The 13-week program starts with teaching the boys how their young brains are developing at this age and then equipping them with tools, guidance and inspiration for sound decision making. In just one semester, Principal Dave McKreag has been amazed at their improved grades, decreased discipline referrals and increased confidence and motivation.

Success runs in the Jones family, especially on the basketball court, but they own the mantra that success comes in all kinds of different forms, and any kid could stand to benefit from that message.