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On Your Mark, Get Set … Learn!

by Jeanette Waite Bennett

It seems like nothing goes by faster than a break from school. And when it’s time to go back to classes, it’s also time to get motivated. Learning takes effort, but you’ll find that classes are more fun when you’re ready for and interested in studying. Here are a few tips to help you “get into” school.

Be a “Goal-ie”

By deciding early what you want to accomplish this year, chances are much better that you will achieve it. Here are some suggested goals for you to think about:

  • Decide on a certain grade point average you’d like to maintain. List ways to do it.

  • Plan to make three new friends.

  • Decide to join a club or try out for a group. Maybe you’ll find out that drama is your thing. Or perhaps you’ll make a great secretary for the science club. You never know until you try.

  • Make it a priority to smile and be friendly to everyone.

  • Try to invite at least three friends to church or to a Mutual activity during the year.

  • Make a written commitment to yourself to attend seminary. Decide now to keep up with the reading assignments.

  • Plan a nightly schedule for when and where you will do your homework.

  • Resolve to have good eating and sleeping habits.

  • Don’t forget about fitness. The better you feel, the better you can perform!

  • Try to get out of your comfort zone and get to know your classmates that are different from you. You can learn a lot just by talking to your peers.

Yearn to Learn

School is about learning. And the more you enjoy finding out about new things, the more school will mean to you. Here are some ideas to make learning more productive:

  • Visit a bookstore and get lost in the shelves. You may discover that books are a lot more interesting than you first believed. Pay attention to which books interest you. Sign up for classes that involve those subjects.

  • Ask your parents, siblings, and friends what they think you are good at. Plan to take classes or become involved in school activities that will help you develop these talents that might be hidden to you.

  • If your school offers a career explorations class, sign yourself up. This class will expose you to many different ideas and subjects that will help you decide what other classes you should take in the future. The more you find out about yourself and your likes and dislikes, the better.

  • Figure out which school supplies you’ll need for the coming year. Then, either gather supplies your family already has, or go to a store and purchase what you need. Sometimes using a new binder or your favorite color pen can make school more fun. If you’re suffering from lack of cash to buy supplies, try to earn the money.

Spiritual Preparation

Heavenly Father is concerned about you and your happiness. The stronger your faith in him, the easier your year will be because you will always have someone to turn to. Here are some ways to prepare yourself spiritually for the year ahead:

  • Ask your father, home teacher, or close friend for a priesthood blessing. Ask for additional blessings if you need them during the year.

  • Draw close to your Heavenly Father through personal prayer and scripture study. With his help you will be better able to face the challenges of the school year.

  • Be humble as you begin the new year. This will help you make and keep friends and do better in school.

  • Remember, learning is much more than just accumulating a grade point average. Our progress and development on earth are dependent on learning, a lifelong process that continues into eternity (see D&C 130:18–19).

Great “Graffiti”

Britta Jensen, a Laurel who lives in Yokosuka, Japan, enlisted the help of other young women, leaders, and some nonmember friends to paint a city wall with the message “Stand for Truth and Righteousness” and the Young Women symbol. The painting was part of a citywide mural-painting contest—and a perfect opportunity for Britta to share a gospel message with others.

“With social pressures as they are now, I think it’s important for girls to know that they can stand up for what they believe in,” says Britta.

Britta, who is an American living in Japan because her father is a commander in the Navy, spent nearly two months designing and preparing the mural. It was hard work, but “it was really worth it,” says Britta, since the mural gave her a chance to share the gospel with curious passersby.

Young Women Climb to New Heights

Some people might think that a 50-mile hike is a challenge meant only for Boy Scouts—but not the girls and leaders from the Priest River Ward in the Sandpoint Idaho Stake. They recently challenged themselves to hike through snow and hail in Montana’s Lee Medcalf Wilderness.

The trip included a few surprises—like a bear eating some of their food out of a tree—but all the girls report that they wouldn’t trade their hike for anything. Eight days in the high country might be enough to last some people a lifetime, but these girls are already planning their next trip.

Sing Out, Sisters

There isn’t a week that goes by in the Titahi Bay Ward without at least three investigators visiting the Young Women’s program. Whether they’re making chocolates or doing calligraphy at activity nights, or receiving a spiritual lesson and singing on Sundays, visiting the local LDS church has become the thing to do in this part of Wellington, New Zealand.

“It just sounded like fun, so I came,” says 15-year-old investigator Rita Davis, who was originally invited by Mia Maid Corrine Taurima. “And I just keep on coming.”

But the girls of the ward weren’t always so outgoing. It was music that brought them together as a unit, and music that helped them reach out to others. Once they started singing together, things changed. “It gave us a spiritual self-confidence,” says Irirangi McPhee, 16. All the girls agree that they feel extremely spiritual when they start singing together.

“It helps our testimonies grow when we sing,” says Irirangi. “And hopefully it helps others too.”

Boot Camp

Young Women in the San Jose California South Stake are wondering why everyone tells such horror stories about boot camp. As far as they’re concerned, it’s about the greatest thing to do with their free summer days.

Of course, their “boots” were a little different than those worn in the military, and it was a training camp for living a Christlike life, rather than serving as a soldier. BOOT (which stands for “building our own testimonies”) camp had a lot of the same activities that all girls’ camps have. But the highlight of camp was having poems written by the girls set to music by their stake president. The songs were then sung by a guest soloist at a special camp fireside, and tape-recorded for the girls to keep.

“It made my poem sound so good,” says April Gustavson. “I couldn’t believe it was something that I wrote.”

Seminary Saves the Day

“Last year I was busy preparing myself for the British GCSE Exam. Young people throughout the country were cramming their revision in every hour of every day, but as I returned home every day from school, the first thing I did was complete my home-study seminary assignments.

“My seminary teacher told me, ‘You do your seminary work and the Lord will take care of the rest.’ That has remained with me throughout my seminary courses and encouraged me to complete my home-study and attend my seminary meeting every Tuesday night.

“In August 1995 I received my exam results and came well above average in every subject, securing myself a place at one of England’s top academic schools. I know it was a blessing of seminary given to me by Heavenly Father that helped me complete my exams successfully.” —Simon Greathead, 16, Lancashire, England

Marvelous Missionaries

Elder Asafo-Adjei George (right) and his companion, Elder Mensah, are both natives of Ghana, Africa. They are currently serving missions in their home country and are excited to share the gospel with others.

Elder George writes: “I really love the gospel, the Book of Mormon is true, and Joseph Smith is a prophet of God. No amount of words can convince me that this church is not true.”

Genuine Genealogists

Young Women in the Shoreline Ward, Richland Washington Stake, found an unusual way to learn about genealogy research. They pieced together a history of a six-day-old baby that had been buried in their city’s cemetery in 1909.

Not much was known about the baby’s family, and the grave didn’t have a headstone. Starting with the name “Baby Boy Lair” and a few fragments of information about the baby’s life, the girls and their adviser, Maureen Hales, found living family members (a nephew and his children and grandchildren), got information for a small headstone, and made arrangements for a short graveside service. The service was open to the public and all the youth in the stake were invited. The youth say that doing the project has changed their ideas about doing genealogy.

“At first, the baby seemed like a story from a book. Finding some of the details about the baby’s family and learning about his short life made it more realistic. There were no pictures of the baby, and I wonder what he looked like,” says Laurel Mindy Lee. “I’m now working on learning about my own ancestors, especially my great-grandmother.”

Good Answers

Samantha Mellors was saddened, along with her classmates, when a popular teacher at her school died of cancer. Many of the students were deeply affected by the death of their teacher. Even grief counseling didn’t seem to help. So a school adviser asked Samantha, a Mia Maid in the Penrith Ward, Sydney Australia Hebersham Stake, to share her beliefs about life after death with small groups of students.

“Some of the questions that were asked were really hard to answer, but after some thought I was able to answer the questions with ease. A number of girls came up to me after the discussions and told me how happy they were to know they could see other family members and our teacher again,” says Samantha.

[photo] Photography by John Luke