Mission-driven senior works to get young students more engaged in the classroom

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Notre Dame senior Peter Miklas thinks one of the keys to getting third and fourth graders more engaged in the classroom can be found on the soccer field. Which makes perfect sense since that strategy has worked out quite well for Miklas himself.

On Tuesday, August 25, Miklas, one of the standouts on Notre Dame Prep’s varsity boys soccer team, scored the only goal as the Irish (2-2-1) defeated Lapeer East, 1-0. 

Miklas also is a standout in the classroom, with a number of Ivy League schools on his college radar.

But it’s his work with the younger students at Walton Charter Academy just down the road from Notre Dame that makes Miklas stand out a little bit more. 

He’s developed a tutoring and mentoring concept for young students at Walton that he calls “Head, Heart, Feet,” which is a leadership-development program that uses soccer as a medium to teach essential values—including both hard work and fun—for the classroom.

“I think it’s important for even the young students to see that it’s possible to enjoy their time in the classroom as much as they enjoy the time they spend playing on the field,” he says. 

Leaders on the field and in the classroom
The four main “pillars” of the HHF program: pride, team of leaders, discipline and passion, he says, provide the kids with real goals and tactics for how they can improve as leaders on the field and in the classroom. 

“Most importantly,” Miklas says, “the Head, Heart, Feet program is results-oriented. Walton Charter Academy actually has seen an improvement in the students' academic and social development as a result of the program, and we aim to continuously influence the participating students for the long-term.”

Miklas began the program last spring at Walton with just a handful of kids and it operated mostly as part of Walton’s summer school program, but it has since grown to include about 15 students with a fall program in the works.  

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Long term he believes the program can grow and move to other schools, with “massive potential and no limits” on its growth. 

“I originally developed the program because I saw both an opportunity and a hole to fill,” he said. “Notre Dame Prep encourages service work for its students and I was looking for truly influential service. While HHF resembles service, I think the term ‘service’ doesn’t adequately define this program, as there really is a deeper purpose. What I think makes it different is the focus on quantifiable results and the development of long-term relationships between leaders and students. And I think Head, Heart, Feet provides a continuity that many service projects lack.”

Harvard on radar
While Miklas developed the program on his own, he said he works in collaboration with a number of other young men and women, including the following students from Notre Dame: Julia Pagnucco, Ian Cairns, Garrett Kremer, Anna Miklas, Nick Wasik, Rosella LoChirco, James Pillot IV, Matt Sollmer, Olivia Juliani and Jackie Lopez. 

“Most of the leaders are classmates and friends of mine, and all have exceptional academic backgrounds.”

Now starting his final year at Notre Dame, it appears that Miklas has exceptional college goals in mind as well as he looks to continue his education after high school. 

“Harvard is my dream school, but I'm also applying to schools like Stanford, Yale, Princeton, Duke, and the University of Chicago, among others,” he said. “I’m both excited and nervous to see where I eventually end up.”

Comments or questions? mkelly@ndpma.org.

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 About Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy

Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy is a private, Catholic, independent, coeducational day school located in Oakland County. The school's upper division enrolls students in grades nine through twelve and has been named one of the nation's best 50 Catholic high schools (Acton Institute) four times since 2005. Notre Dame's middle and lower divisions enroll students in jr. kindergarten through grade eight. All three divisions are International Baccalaureate "World Schools." NDPMA is conducted by the Marist Fathers and Brothers and is accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Central States and the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement. For more on Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy, visit the school's home page at www.ndpma.org.

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