Taking Notes Does Not Have to be Stressful

Does note- taking stress you out? I meet students all the time who are overwhelmed with taking notes in their classes. Some try to copy down everything they see and hear while others give up and don’t write down anything. While note-taking is not fun it shouldn’t have to be stressful. In this video I offer a couple of basic tips for taking notes stress-free.

What’s your favorite color?

Your favorite color brings about a positive feeling. Take advantage of this while note-taking by writing in your favorite color.

Abbreviate to Alleviate =)

Abbreviating words, events, names, etc. like many people do while texting can alleviate some stress while note-taking.

Example: The Declaration of Independence was signed August 2nd, 1776

Abbreviated: Dec. of Ind. = 8/2/1776

Click HERE for a list of abbreviations for note=taking.

Get your attention!

What get’s your attention? Color stimulates our brains. We notice shapes and symbols before words. Use various symbols such as a star to make key words stand out. When you are reviewing your notes use various colors in the form of highlighters, pens, markers, pencils, etc. to highlight, underline, write, and draw on your notes. The more colorful your notes are the better!. Make them pop!

This week’s challenge is …

Incorporate your favorite color(s) in some way into your notes.


mel professional photo by kateMelanie Black is an Associate Certified Academic Life Coach and mindfulness educator. She is passionate about helping others and learning all she can in the process. With ten years of experience in the field of education, she is determined to help students succeed in school and life. “ One of my goals is to continue to be a humanitarian who helps our local community. I am passionate about my relentless pursuit of knowledge and desire to help others.“



Finals: Defeating Test Anxiety

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Test Anxiety: Don’t Panic!

Sometimes no matter how hard you’ve worked to prepare for a test, anxiety can prevent you from performing to your full potential. Students get test anxiety for reasons such as fear of failure, lack of preparation, and poor test history. It can affect them physically, emotionally, and cognitively. Thus, affecting their results on the exam and their overall grade in a course.

I have had test anxiety ever since I was in elementary school. It only got worse when I was in college and university. The minute I received the test I felt my heart pound harder and harder. My face felt hot and my body became extremely tense. Timed tests only made the situation more stressful.

There are several ways to deal with test anxiety. Don’t suffer! Here are some strategies to help students overcome all the stress that comes with taking tests, especially timed tests.


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Move around while studying. Stretch. Take Breaks. Walk around with your study sheets and flash cards and read them aloud.
Breathe! “If you’re feeling nervous when you sit down to take the test, take three slow, steady breaths. Remind yourself that you’ve been getting ready for these tests all year long.” – Ted Dorsey
My favorite free mindfulness apps are MindShift and Breathe
Focus with fidget toys. Fat Brain Toys has the ultimate selection of fidget toys, which are searchable by age. Also, use small things such as a bracelet or necklace.
Get plenty of sleep. Don’t study while tired. If you are tired then stop. You will not retain anything if you are exhausted.
Always eat breakfast! During a test maintain your focus with a peppermint candy, gum, or a piece of chocolate.
Create a study plan two weeks in advance with a study schedule and specific strategies that will help you retain what you need to know.
Create a study playlist. Pick your power song and listen to it before the test for motivation.
Don’t panic when students start handing in their papers. There’s no reward for finishing first. If there’s answer you don’t know skip it and come back to it later.



Melanie Black of Student Futures is a trained academic life coach for students and teens. She has a passion to help students succeed. Academic coaching helps develop life skills for students as well as gives them academic strategies, which help to decrease anxiety and stress in students. Contact Melanie Black today for a free consultation at or (904) 487-8269.

2016 Summer Opportunities for Teens

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Start thinking about your summer plans now. Various places in Jacksonville and surrounding areas are taking applications and they usually have to be submitted soon. There are lots of opportunities out there for teens to gain valuable experiences depending on their interests. If you don’t see something that interests you but know of an organization you would like to get involved in just call them up and ask if they have any opportunities available. Using your time wisely over the summer can greatly benefit students when applying to colleges and universities. Admissions are looking for individuals who have been active in their community.

Benefits of Community Service for Teens

Develop a sense of social responsibility

Exposure to diversity and multiculturalism.

Builds relationships and network with peers, adults, and others.

Improves communication and critical thinking skills.

Stand out among other applicants at a college or university

Discover passions and interests that lead to a career choice

Use the links below to discover local opportunities for teens 

Medical Field (volunteer)

UF Health
Baptist Health
American Red Cross

Animals (volunteer)

Jacksonville Zoo
Jacksonville Humane Society

The Arts (camp/ course)

Florida Film Academy at Flagler College
UNF Summer Music Camp for Middle and High School Students

STEM (camp/ course/ internship)

UNF Summer Tech Camps for Kids and Teens
(MOSH) Museum of Science and History Teen Internship Program


Summer Jobs for Teens

 Melanie Black of Student Futures is a certified academic life coach for students and teens. She has a passion to help students succeed. Academic coaching helps develop life skills for students as well as gives them academic strategies, which help to decrease anxiety and stress in students. Contact Melanie Black today for a free consultation at or (904) 487-8269.

How to Talk to Teachers: 10 Tips for Student Success

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Have you ever had a teacher who you felt was unfair? In my experience with students I hear the following phrases:

  • My teacher doesn’t like me.
  • My teacher treats the other students different than me.
  • My teacher doesn’t answer my questions.
  • My teacher is mean.

It is no secret that communication is key. I believe it is vital that we teach students communication skills in order to help them build healthy relationships and gain conflict-resolution skills. When students have these skills they feel more connected to their classroom, their teacher, and their school, because they have a voice.

Just about every student, at one time or another has struggled to maintain or improve their grades. For students to succeed here, it’s important to communicate with and build relationships with their teachers. However, many students tend to avoid their teachers for reasons like they think their teachers will judge them, they think the teacher will tell them information they already know, they don’t like their teacher or think their teacher doesn’t like them, or they believe they will be judged by their peers as “not cool” for talking to their teacher.

Tips for How to Talk to Teachers

1. Make an appointment. Teachers are very busy so schedule a time to talk rather than trying to discuss something in the middle of class or right after class.

2. Talk to your teacher with a fellow classmate. If you know other students who are having the same issue(s) as you then go to the teacher together.

3. Plan ahead. Write down what you want to say beforehand. Write down any questions you have and if it is regarding a particular assignment or test, make sure you have the necessary paperwork.

4. Use your words.  Don’t say negative words like “boring” or “I don’t like writing.” Ask questions that are not insulting, such as “Can you suggest a good way to get started?” Let your teacher know that you want to do well and how important it is for you to be able to succeed. When you ask questions about an assignment instead of saying “I don’t get it.” Be specific and explain what part of the assignment you don’t understand.

5. Be a problem solver.  Don’t expect your teacher to solve an issue for you. Propose a solution to your teacher.

6. Be empathetic. Try to look at the situation from your teacher’s point of view. Be respectful. Teachers have feelings too. Don’t ever go to a teacher with an angry tone. It will not solve anything.

7. Listen! It is important to listen respectfully to your teacher. The teacher may tell you something you don’t know, which could be of great help.

8. If you think it is “uncool” to talk to your teachers, then revisit your values. How important is it to you, to succeed? Communication with your teacher, the person you see everyday, is key to your success. Take advantage!

9. Don’t make assumptions. You don’t know what your teacher is thinking. Don’t assume they don’t like you. Talk to them! You may be surprised what comes out of the conversation. The reality is your teacher may not like you. Remember, if you have the right not to like them then, they have the right not to like you. We are all human. You can’t control the actions of others, but you can choose how you react to them.

10. Learn from the experience. Even if the conversation with your teacher doesn’t go the way you hoped at least now you have a clearer picture of your teacher’s expectations. Now, you know what to do in the future. Hopefully, your teacher learned from the experience as well. Don’t forget to SAY THANK YOU.

Melanie Black of Student Futures is a certified academic life coach for students and teens. She has a passion to help students succeed. Academic coaching helps develop life skills for students as well as gives them academic strategies, which help to decrease anxiety and stress in students. Contact Melanie Black today for a free consultation at or (904) 487-8269.


Helping Students Find Their Passion

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Recently, I read The Element, by Sir Ken Robinson, whom I respect for his views about education and innovative ideas about how to help students succeed. He defines one’s element as a point “where natural aptitude meets personal passion.” Being in your element is more than just doing something you are good at. People are good at things that they don’t like. To truly be in your element it requires the perfect combo of talent as well as loving what you are doing. Dr. Robinson states, “When people are in their Element, they connect with something fundamental to their sense of identity, purpose, and well-being.”

Reading The Element has made me more self-aware of my own talents and passions and how important it is to my overall well-being to give attention to them. It made me think about my education, my career path thus far, and the advice I received from others along the way. In this talk I reflect on my education, my career path thus far, and the advice I received from others along the way.

Passion: The Compass and the Fuel in your Journey to Success from Melanie Black on Vimeo.


As a certified Academic Life Coach, I believe what I have learned in this book will help me better help and guide my students. One of the focuses of the Academic Life Coaching program is to help teens and students discover their passion and find ways to incorporate that passion into their lives through leadership projects. It promotes teens’ and students’ to be creative and gain self-confidence.

From the ALC Workbook

What do you love to do?

If you had two weeks completely free, what would you pursue?

Is there anything odd that you’re interested in that most of your friends aren’t?

What would you love to pursue as a career?


Sir Ken Robinson discusses creativity in his book and how it applies to student success. He states, “Creativity is as important as literacy.” YES! He stresses the idea that academic ability is not enough to succeed. “If all you had was academic ability, you wouldn’t have been able to get out of bed this morning. In fact, there wouldn’t have been a bad to get out of. No one could have made one. You could have written about possibility of one, but not have constructed it.” Dr. Robinson explains how when we hear the word, creative, we tend to associate it with the arts. However, he goes on to discuss the importance creativity across ALL subjects, and areas of life. Sir Ken Robinson notes, “Human communities depend upon a diversity of talent not a singular conception of ability.”

If we want to prepare youth for college and university and beyond we must teach them how to find their element and use it to be successful. The job market has become extremely competitive.  More and more people are getting a degree then ever before. It used to be if you got a degree you were almost guaranteed a job. Now, that is not the case. Sir Ken Robinson states, “But now kids with degrees are often heading home to carry on playing video games, because you need an MA where the previous job required a BA, and now you need a PhD for the other. It’s a process of academic inflation. And it indicates the whole structure of education is shifting beneath our feet. We need to radically rethink our view of intelligence. We have to rethink the fundamental principles on which we’re educating our children.” Bottom line: it is important that one finds their element and from it bases choices about their future.

Want to learn more about how to find your element? Click HERE for a FREE workbook by Sir Ken Robinson & Lou Aronica. This workbook will help you find your talents and passions! After you go through the workbook, the next step is to create action steps to pursue your element.

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 Student Futures’s goal is to motivate and help students achieve their dreams through Academic Coaching. Know a teen who needs help getting on the right track to success? Click here to contact Student Futures today to set up an initial academic coaching consultation with Academic Coach, Melanie Black to learn more about how we help teens achieve their dreams and become masters of their own path to success.



Soccer Teachers Students Life Skills

 1. Teamwork

Soccer requires teamwork. Each player has a different and important role. Everyone must communicate and work together to play the game. Teammates have to trust each other to do their job. They build confidence in each other. Being on a team helps one relate to, trust and communicate with others. In life there are many instances where we are part of a team or group and must work towards a common goal.

“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” Henry Ford

2. Discipline

Soccer teaches self-discipline. Self-control and self-awareness are key to a player’s success. Not just in the physical sense, but also in the emotional sense.  Players must be able to monitor their behavior in order to be successful. In life we need self-discipline in school, work, and everyday life. People with strong self-discipline skills always do better in life.

3. Hard work

Hard work pays off! To be a good soccer player one must practice consistently. The professional players were not good at soccer when they first set foot on a field. They worked hard to get where they are and practice consistently to maintain their success. Hard work is required to achieve results. However, one of the hardest lessons is hard work does not guarantee success. That’s why it’s important to take pride in one’s effort and always learn from your experiences.

4. Setting Goals

Soccer players are constantly looking for ways to improve their game. Setting measurable goals helps them improve as it does anyone. Morgan Brian of the US Women’s National Soccer Team talks about and shows how her coach had her create SMART goals when she was in high school. She also mentions how she would wake up and write five goals on her bathroom mirror every morning. Check out her video by clicking HERE. Check out Student Futures post on goal setting HERE.

5. Perseverance

Life isn’t always fair. Let go of mistakes. Acknowledge them. Learn from them. Then, move past them. Soccer is challenging physically and mentally. The game demands perseverance. Losing a game or getting injured can affect a player’s confidence and sometimes quitting can be tempting.  It’s inspiring to watch players on the field. So many fall and get right back up. Players make mistakes and continue to play game after game. In life we must deal with situations as they arise and persevere through a variety of circumstances.

6. Risk-Taking

One moment can change everything! We have to be willing to take risks to get ahead in the game. Risk taking commands mental toughness. Soccer players learn how to be brave, tough and aggressive and prepared for games. A player may shoot for a goal from midfield and might fail. They could also make the goal. Dealing with failure is a part of taking risks. If you don’t fail, then how do you know when you’ve succeeded? In life we must take risks to get ahead. Risk taking leads to new ideas and experiences. When we fail it’s important to keep a growth mindset, learn from the experience, and decide what to do differently in the future. Keep learning!

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 Student Futures’s goal is to motivate and help students achieve their dreams through Academic Coaching. Know a teen who needs help getting on the right track to success? Click here to contact Student Futures today to set up an initial academic coaching consultation with Academic Coach, Melanie Black to learn more about how we help teens achieve their dreams and become masters of their own path to success.


Victory is Yours and Here’s How to Get It

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The word, goals is used a lot. Some people cringe at the thought of setting goals because they have been forced to do it a specific way over and over again and then they have an even harder time following through and achieving those goals.  Let’s see if we can change this negative perspective and find intrinsic motivation to help us achieve what we want most.

Merriam Webster defines victory as “achievement of mastery or success in a struggle or endeavor against odds or difficulties.”

Instead of setting goals let’s attempt to strategize our victories. Yes, it will be difficult and there will be struggles along the way that you will have to deal with.  Deal with them as they come. Be fearless and keep your victories in sight.

Take these 5 simple steps to Victory:

Victory: What do you want to achieve?

Why: Why do you want this victory?

Technique: How will you achieve your victory? What steps can you take?

Mentor: Who will help you? Don’t be afraid to ask for help!

Nickname: Give your victory a nickname like Super Star so you can refer to it often. It’s easier to be mindful of your victory by utilizing a nickname.


Victory is yours!

Feeling overwhelmed? No worries. Student Futures’s academic coach, Melanie Black has a passion for helping students succeed. Click here for more helpful resources. Contact Student Futures today and schedule a free academic coaching consultation and learn more about how we help teens use strategies to be victories and achieve their dreams. Student Futures serves middle school, high school, and college freshman students in Jacksonville, FL and surrounding areas.We want to help you succeed!

 Keep smiling and reach for the stars!

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Business Ideas for Teen Entrepreneurs

In our last post we noted some potential jobs for teens. Rather than working for someone else have you ever thought about starting your own business? Not only is it a way to learn new things and earn money, but it is also a great thing to put on your college applications. There are many resources available to help teen entrepreneurs start their own business. Click here to visit Biz Kids which has a ton of downloadable resources that are helpful. Plus, there is a cool game to play! Locally, Junior Achievement of North Florida has a high school program, JA Be Entrepreneurial, which is AWESOME! Learn more about Junior Achievement of North Florida by clicking here. Ask your teachers or principal if the program is at your school. If not ask them to contact JA’s local office. For more information click here. As a volunteer with JA I can tell this organization is an asset to Jacksonville. They are doing amazing things for the youth in our community.

These days there are many teens who are using their amazing skills to open their own business. Read more by clicking here.

Teen Business Ideas

1. Make an account on and build a profile. You can be a pet sitter, tutor, care giver, or run errands for those who need things. You set your rate and availability.

2. is looking for tutors. Build a profile get started today. You set your rate and availability.

3. Computer repair service

4. Etsy is a great website to promote and run your own online store. If you are crafty then this is a great option for you to earn some money.

5. Car washing

6. Lawn care service

7. Bake it up! If you enjoy baking cookies or cupcakes then you could make some extra cash by selling your goodies.

8. Jewelry making

9. Cleaning service

10. Photography

11. Udemy is a website where you can create instructional videos about anything and set your price for each video.

12. Start an informational blog or website if you are tech savvy and earn money

Need help getting started? Student Futures offers academic coaching services to teen entrepreneurs in Jacksonville, FL and surrounding areas who want to start their own business and maintain balance with their academics. We can help you create your business plan and network within the local community. Want to bring your friends? No problem. Contact Student Futures today to attend a workshop with your friends. Click here for our contact information.

Keep smiling and reaching for the stars!