Success in school: Parents, kids offer advice

News-DemocratAugust 18, 2013 

First-grader Alivia Peck, 6, of Granite City, read a 60-page book -- when she was in preschool.

Lucas Penet, 9, was 7 years old when he memorized the spelling of a 45-letter word -- just for fun.

Erick Gosebrink, 12, of Shiloh, built and programmed a robotics car.

They're all bright kids and were among 237 participants in the Kids on Campus program July 26 through Aug. 2 at Southwestern Illinois College in Belleville. We caught up with them and their parents to get some back-to-school tips.

Erick's best advice for other students -- "study before you play video games."

He knows what he's taking about. The seventh-grader at St. Teresa Catholic School in Belleville was all smiles as he raced a robotics car down a SWIC hallway as part of the advanced robotics class. Erick, the son of Janine and John Gosebrink, won the race with his car.

Janine credits her son's success in school to his love of reading and working well with his peers. "He works hard and is motivated," she said.

John said his son also participates in other activities including Boy Scouts and sports camps. "He has a pretty balanced portfolio," he said of Erick.

Erick said the robotics class was fun, but he didn't like getting up early in the morning. The class started at 8:30 a.m..

He attributes his academic success to his teachers at St. Teresa School. He also enjoys reading books. His favorite series is "Heroes of Olympus" by Rick Riordan. "Heroes of Olympus," a spinoff to the Percy Jackson and The Olympians series, follows a group of heroes as they complete a quest.

Erick's friend and classmate Connor McClary, 12, also took part in the advanced robotics class.

Connor's parents Toni and Mike McClary, of Shiloh, enrolled their son in Kids on Campus to challenge him.

"He's very bright," Toni said. "And mechanical," Mike added. "He never gets bored putting things together."

Connor has a whole table in the family's basement filled with Lego sets he has built. His favorite are the Lego Star Wars sets.

Mike praised the program and its location -- a college campus. "We're already trying to get him excited about going to college," Mike said.

Though he likes school, Connor said he wouldn't mind a few more weeks of summer vacation. Connor spent his summer playing the piano, taking tennis lessons and swimming.

Connor is also in Boy Scouts and hopes to earn a merit badge through his participation in the robotics class.

Connor's advice for students struggling in school: "Work hard, study and do your homework" and "pay attention."

Lucas Penet, a student at Governor French Academy in Belleville, participated a class called Snap, Crackle and Pop, in which students conducted a series of scientific experiments.

"I just do well in school," Lucas said. "School is kind of my thing."

When he was 7 years old, Lucas memorized the spelling of one of the longest words in the English language -- PNEUMONOULTRAMICROSCOPICSILICOVOLCANOCONIOSIS -- a type of lung disease.

His advice to other students is to study and read. "I absolutely love reading books," he said. Lucas is a big fan of the Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling.

Ayden Thurnau, 9, of Belleville, a fourth-grader at Roosevelt School in Belleville, also likes the Harry Potter and Percy Jackson books. He attributed his success in school to his parents and sister.

Ayden's advice was plain and simple: "study harder."

Ayden's mother Amber Thurnau said it's important to encourage children and experiment with things to see where their interest lies.

Roy Stabley, 10, a fifth-grader at Dorris Intermediate School in Collinsville, said he reads a lot, and especially enjoys the Lord of the Rings books. He advised other students to "try as hard as you can."

His mother, Laura Stabley, suggested parents stay involved with their kids and participate in programs like Kids on Campus.

William Weise, 9, a fourth-grader at Whiteside Elementary School in Belleville, said he enjoys doing math pages at home and reading chapter books. He gets a sweet reward for completing the math sheets -- candy.

William's mother, Jennifer Weise, of Shiloh, said parents should encourage their children's interest, let them experiment and stay involved in their activities.

This was Alivia Peck's first year participating in the Kids on Campus program. She wanted to do the cooking class but ended up in the gardening class. "She loved it," said her mother Shelly Peck, of Granite City.

Alivia got to take home a bright red bucket with a horseradish plant, a tomato plant and a pepper plant.

Alivia attends Holy Family Catholic School in Granite City. Shelly said she encouraged Alivia's love of reading at a young age.

"Ever since she was born, we read to and talked to her," she said.

Alivia loves to read. Her favorite books are the Judy Moody books by Megan McDonald and Peter Reynolds, which follow the triumphs and tribulations of a third-grader.

"We keep her involved in a lot of things," Shelly said, "and let her be creative."

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