The Ultimate Back to School Guide for 2017


Before you go shopping do this!

  • Go through your closet and drawers in your room. Collect all the clothes you don’t wear anymore. Be realistic! Take them to Plato’s Closet to earn some cash for which you can use to go back to school shopping.
  • Where will you be doing most of your studying? Take time to plan how you want your study environment to look. Make a list of the items you need for your work space. Hobby Lobby has great options! Don’t forget your 40% off coupon!
  • When you are making your list and shopping for items consider color. What is your favorite color? Incorporate this color into your environment and school items. It will help you focus and make you happy.
  • Grab your supply list that you received from school. I f you did not receive one see my advice below.
  • Check online first! Click HERE to see how to score killer deals online with Amazon, AppleWalmartStaples, and Barnes and Noble.

The items the school doesn’t tell you that you need!

Lap Desk: For those times when you feel like writing in bed or on the couch.

Dry erase board and markers: These are great study tools! You can brainstorm ideas, work out problems, etc. Use them when you are studying with friends.

Ear buds FOR SCHOOL: Yes. I know you probably own ear buds, but have some that you only keep in your backpack. Have another pair that are only kept at home.

Water bottle: Staying hydrated means you can stay focused!

Fidget tool/ toy: No, I don’t mean a spinner. Something that doesn’t make noise but will help you focus. I mean a stress ball, a funky eraser, spiral key ring, etc.

First day outfit: This is important to every middle and high schooler’s mental well being. Having an outfit they like will give them a confidence boost.

Learning assessment: Take an online Self Portrait Learning Assessment with Student Futures and then get together with Academic Coach, Melanie Black, for a 60 minute session about how to take advantage of your strengths. Read more about the assessment HERE.

Planner: Choose wisely! Don’t just go for a pretty cover. Be realistic. Look at the structure, size, layout, etc. Read my post about planners HERE.

Essentail Oils: EO’s are all the rage right now. Rosemary has been scientifically proven to help with focus and concentration. Vetiver has been proven to help students with ADD and ADHD. Need a pick me up? Peppermint and Eucalyptus will give you a boost if needed.

Accordion file: Chances are your binders will fill up fast. In the middle of a quarter or at the end take those papers and file them. Label a section for each class. You might need them again before the end of the school year so it is wise to keep them organized and accessible.

Mints: They help you regain focus when needed.

A quick note about supply lists and shopping.

Some students don’t know the supplies needed for their classes until the first day of school. Yes. It is frustrating. Do NOT go out and buy folders, binders, and notebooks if you do not know what specifically the teacher wants your student(s) to have. This will only make you waste money and time. Get one small notebook and a pen or pencil, and use that the first day or two of school. You will have to take your student shopping for supplies. Quite possibly during the week in the evening. Grab some Chik-Fil-A or go to Panera for supper and go shopping.

The best apps for students.

While technology can be understandably distracting to students it can be useful in helping them succeed too. These days there is an app for everything. I have compiled my favorites and categorized them for students HERE. This list is meant to address the whole student, not just academics. There are apps that help students with anxiety, time management, study strategies, and life skills.  I am not advising to download all these apps. Some of them are very similar. Check them out and see which ones will work for you. Click HERE to see the list of apps.

Don’t forget to breathe. Have fun. Wishing everyone a successful stress free 2017-2018 school year. 



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.



Where Do We Learn?

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Answer: Everywhere!

Recently, I had the amazing opportunity to attend a TEDx event at FSCJ here in Jacksonville, FL. I was ecstatic when I found out there was a TEDx event happening in my back yard. TED talks and TEDx talks constantly inspire me and we can all learn something from every presenter. There is also TEDx Teen, where young presenters are inspiring others around the world. Learn more about TED by clicking here.

There was so much to take in throughout the day and so many amazing people to talk to. I took copious notes during every presentation. I left feeling empowered. From this event it is obvious that we will never stop learning throughout our lives and school is not the only place we learn. Opportunities for learning are everywhere and we can learn from every experience. In the words of Jose Lepervanche, FSCJ TEDx organizer, “We are always on the learning edge.”

TEDx FSCJ: Lessons Beyond the Learning Edge

Advice from Keith Walters, Executive Producer

1. Always start with a why  

2. Pressure is a privilege

3. Do what you should do if you do not want to

Click on each speaker to learn more.

Amanda Cherie Payton, Fast Superfood

Angela Tenbroeck, Aquaponics Can Change the Hunger Landscape

Mike Reynolds, Our Universe is Our Classroom

Danielle Kendrick, Digital Participatory History Culture in the Local Community

Luis Mejia, The Involuntary Immigrant

Jeff Smith, Transforming Urban Communities and Downtown Spaces Through the Arts

Rachel Stromberg, What Improv Has Taught Me About Leadership

Kathleen Ciez-Volz, Risk-Taking, Mistake-Making, and Lifelong Learning

Steve Piscitelli,  Awareness, Assumptions, and Actions: Why do you do what you do?

Know a teen who is struggling in school? Student Futures academic coaching service can help you succeed. We give students strategies to increase self-efficacy, self-motivation, and self discipline. Contact us today for a free consultation. Click here to learn more about academic coaching and how we are helping students in Jacksonville and surrounding areas.

Keep smiling and reach for the stars!






A Recipe for Academic Success: 5 Key Ingredients

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1. Mentor: Seek out the people you admire and look up to. It could be a teacher or coach. It could be a friend of the family, someone at church, or another individual who is part of a group to which you belong. If you are working maybe there is someone around you such as a boss, manager, or supervisor who you look up to.  Make a list of at least 10 people you think would make a great mentor. Contact these people over the next week . Explain how much you admire them and ask for a meeting. They will be thrilled!

2. Healthy Lifestyle: Take care of your physical and mental health. Maintain a positive attitude! You can achieve anything you want.  School is a lot of work, but you are still allowed to have hobbies and do things that you really enjoy.

3. Organization: Time management is essential to success!Utilize a planner and carry it with you everywhere. Look at your planner at least twice a day, morning and evening. Use Sunday evenings to plan out your following week. Adjustments can be made throughout the week, but it is beneficial to you to plan out your week ahead of time. Also, if you don’t have one create a success binder. Label and utilize tabs, dividers, etc. Every Sunday go through your binder. No loose papers allowed! Rule of thumb for papers: File them properly for each class, or turn it in to the teacher.

4. Self-Portrait Learning Style Profile: Know your learning style and utilize strategies pertaining to your learning style when studying, taking notes, etc. Student Futures clients receive a free Self-Portrait Learning Style Profile assessment. It describes all 5 aspects of one’s learning style rather than just one. Therefore, each student can have a better understanding of how to be successful. For more information click here.

5. Communication: Talk to your teachers. Ask what you can do to be a better student. Even if a student has straight A’s there is still room for improvement. I have met students who make straight A’s but are always stressed about school because they are simply not using certain strategies to make their life easier. Teachers can help you understand how best to study and take notes for their class.

Feeling overwhelmed? No worries. Student Futures academic coaching services aid students in addressing all of the above. Contact Student Futures today and schedule a free academic coaching consultation and learn more about how we help teens succeed. 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 reaching for the stars!


Back to School Advice from Martin Luther King, Jr.

What is your life’s blueprint? How do you make it? What are your hopes and dreams? How will you make them come true?


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Student Futures wishes every student a successful and memorable school year with little stress and a lot of intrigue. As you embark on another chapter in your academic career please think about your goals for the 2014-2015 school year. What do you want for yourself? How will you achieve it? Who’s help do you need?

In the Academic Coaching program goals are referred to as “well-formed outcomes.” Rather  than stating your goal is to get all A’s this year. A well-formed outcome may look more like this: I will take organized notes and review them each night. A well-formed outcome is positive as well as specific and measurable. Try it out! Make three well-formed outcomes to start your school year. Write them down and tape them to your locker or bathroom mirror. Put them up somewhere that you will see them every day.

Before you go off making your well-formed outcomes read this inspiring speech made by Martin Luther King, Jr.. He has some important advice to teens and even though he wrote it 67 years ago, his message is timeless. Read on……

What is Your Life’s Blueprint? By: Martin Luther King, Jr.

I want to ask you a question, and that is: What is in your life’s blueprint? This is a most important and crucial period in your lives. For what you do now and what you decide now at this age may well determine which way your life shall go. Whenever a building is constructed , you usually have an architect who draws a blueprint, and that blueprint serves as the guide for those who are to build the building. A building is not well erected without a good, sound, and solid blueprint.

Now, each of you is in the process of building the structure of your lives, and the question is whether you have a proper, a solid, and a sound blueprint.

I want to suggest some of the things that should be in your life’s blueprint. Number one in your life’s blueprint should be a deep belief in your own dignity, your own worth, and your own somebodiness. Don’t allow anybody to make your feel that you are nobody. Always feel that you count. Always feel that you have worth, and always feel that your life has ultimate significance. Now, that means that you should not be ashamed of your color.  You know, it’s very unfortunate that in so many instances, our society has placed a stigma on the Negro’s color.

Secondly, in your life’s blueprint, you must have as the basic principle the determination to achieve excellence in your various fields of endeavor. You’re going to be deciding as the years unfold what you will do in life—what your life’s work will be. Once you have decided what it will be, set out to do it, and to do it well.

And I say to you, my young friends, that doors are opening to each of you—doors of opportunities that were not open to your mothers and to your fathers—and the great challenge facing you is to be ready to enter these doors as they open.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, the great essayist, said in a lecture in 1871 that if a man can write a better book or preach a better sermon or make a better mousetrap than his neighbor, even if he builds his house in the woods, the world will make a beaten path to his door.

That hasn’t always been true—but it will become increasingly true—but it will become increasingly true, and so I would urge you to study hard, to burn the midnight oil; I would say to you, don’t drop out of school. I understand all of the sociological reasons why we often drop out of school, but I urge you in spite of your economic plight, in spite of the situation that you’re forced to live—stay in school.

And when you discover what you are going to be in your life, set out to do it as if God Almighty called you at this particular moment in history to do it. Do that job so well that a the living, the dead, or the unborn couldn’t do it any better.

If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures.  Sweep streets like Beethoven composed music.  Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry.  Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper.

IF you can’t be a pine on the top of the hill, be a shrub in the valley. But be the best little shrub on the side of the hill.  For it isn’t by size that you win or you fail.  Be the best of whatever you are.

Finally, in your life’s blueprint, there must be a commitment to the eternal principles of beauty, love, and justice. Don’t allow anybody to pull you so low as to make you hate them.  Don’t allow anybody to cause you to lose your self-respect to the point that you do not struggle for justice.  However young you are, you have a responsibility to seek to make life better for everybody. And so you must be involved in the struggle for freedom and justice.


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Go Forth……

Make your personalized blueprint for success. Start by making well-formed outcomes. If you are not sure where to start or how to put your words together, remember that Student Futures can help. We want to help you succeed! If school is stressful and you feel overwhelmed, don’t worry. Please contact Student Futures to find out how academic coaching can meet your needs. Read more about what we do by clicking here. Student Futures serves students in Jacksonville, FL and surrounding areas.

Keep smiling and reaching for the stars!


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Back to School 2014



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It’s that time again!

Hopefully, you have had a fun and relaxing summer where you learned a lot. Now, it is time to switch gears!  Whether you go to public or private school, attend virtual school, or are homeschooled everyone has many things to do to get ready for the 2014-2015 school year.

Today is the beginning of Florida’s tax free holiday weekend. Yay! What is on your shopping list? Click HERE to see Duval County Public School’s shopping list for K-8. For high school lists go to the school’s website. On Saturday, August 2nd, Duval County Public Schools is hosting Back to School Fest at the Jacksonville Fairgrounds from 9am-noon. Lots of cool stuff happening there for parents and students! This year is Duval County Public School’s 150th anniversary. Wow! Let’s start this year strong!

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The Top Item on Your List

An organized student is a successful student. A successful student is a happy student.

Buying a planner is essential to having a successful school year. You can make your own on the computer for free or stores have tons of affordable planners for less than $20. For those of you that are tech savvy check out the My Study Life app. Check out our Pinterest Time Management board for cool stuff by clicking HERE. I know for most students using a planner seems like a chore or another assignment. Mastering how to use a planner will help you be successful not only in high school and middle school, but in college and beyond.

How can parents motivate students to utilize the planner? Buy or create a planner that suits your student. Have the student make it their own by using stickers, or drawing something unique. If students are allowed to personalize it then they will be more likely to take ownership of it. Create a planner routine with your student. Check in each night and review the planner together. Keep a planner yourself. If you can show your student how you use a planner too then, they will be motivated to use one themselves.


– Keep the planner accessible! Most students don’t use the planner because it is never at their fingertips when they need it.

– Write fast! In order to do this use texting language or abbreviations.

– Never be dependent on your memory! We all have tons of things to do. You can’t be expected to memorize it all.

– Keep a pen in the binding

– Mark your current page with a small binder clip.

Here’s to new beginnings! Student Futures wants to help you as you start the new school year. We provide academic coaching services that motivate and inspire students to succeed. Learn more about what we do by clicking HERE. If you know a student who needs some help starting the year off right then contact Student Futures today for an initial consultation.  We want to help you on your road to success!

Keep smiling and reaching for the stars!


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