There’s the famous saying, "It takes a village to raise a child." As adults we can look back on our own childhood and think of special adults who weren’t related to us who had a positive influence on who we are today — coaches, teachers, church leaders and youth leaders.
They were there for us when we needed to talk, learn valuable life lessons, and to mentor us each in their own unique way.
Mentoring youth is what Bothell resident Michael Pizzo has devoted his life to for over 30 years.
Pizzo has been a youth pastor, is a well-known and respected tennis coach, and has worked in local high school and junior high classrooms for years. Now, he has combined his behavioral science degree and experience working with teenagers with a rigorous training program to become the first certified Academic Life Coach for teens in the Northshore area.
Academic Life Coaching (ALC) is a one-on-one program designed specifically for teens. The 10-session course covers 32 concepts ranging from academic skills, stress management, organization, leadership, motivation and communication to the college application process.
"I was drawn to ALC for a couple of reasons. First, the word ‘Coach.’ Since I have devoted a large part of my life to coaching sports, I was intrigued. Another reason was the opportunity to work with teens," said Pizzo.
The purpose of ALC is to equip teenagers with the tools they will need to succeed now and in the future. The training focuses on empathy, leadership, communication, organization and other key emotional intelligence and life coaching skills, according to ALC’s website academiclifecoaching.com.
John A. Williams, a Portland, Ore. resident and former high school Latin teacher, founded ALC in 2005. Since then, he’s trained and certified over 100 people from all over the world to become Academic Life Coaches, including Pizzo.
The International Coaches Federation (ICF) officially approved ALC in October 2012 as the first coaching program specifically focused for teens. "It was a year-long process to get approval by them," Williams said.
Williams’ program has garnered national attention, having been featured by such news outlets as The Wall Street Journal, Associated Press, CNN Money and Newsweek.
A recent survey done by Williams determined the three problems that students and parents identify as the biggest and most common during the high school years are:
1) Stress about grades. If they are too low, the stress is how to get them higher. If they are high, the stress is usually about all the hard work that it took to keep them there; 2) Frustration about the quality of the relationship they have with their child; 3) Anxiety about the college application process and paying for college; and 4) Worrying if their child has all the life skills they need to be successful in the world.
For Pizzo, the training involved six months of phone meeting sessions with other Life Coaches around the country. "One of the greatest components of ALC training was practicing what we were learning with other coaches," explained Pizzo.
"One of the biggest strengths Michael brings in his coaching is his level of empathy and pure heart to the teens I’ve heard him mentor as a coach," said Williams.
Pizzo is enthusiastic about the positive benefits the ALC program will have, not only for the individual teens he will mentor, but also for the parents and the teen’s school.
"Teenagers work on how to improve essential skills that will lead to success in and out of the classroom. Parents and schools get the benefit of teenagers who are now more confident, competent and motivated," Pizzo explained.
He added, "One of the many factors that parents can expect from using this 10-session program is a more confident and motivated student. Our program builds from the inside out. When students finish this program they have a very positive perspective about life. This healthy perspective overflows into all areas of their life."
Pizzo meets with prospective teen clients and their parents first to see if the ALC program will be a good fit. Then, he works with the families to set up meeting times that work for well for the teen’s busy academic schedule.
Success, said Pizzo, will be measured by the results in the classroom and in the home. "Each student who participates in this program and applies themselves to the skills learned will be a successful student and adult," he said.
"I have had the opportunity to mentor and coach many students over the years. In all of these encounters that I have had, my goal has always been to encourage each student and to create positive change," he explained.