When Maria Feekes founded After School University in 2010, she partnered with UCCS physics professor Anatoliy Glushchenko to put together a curriculum that would help students gain a solid foundation in math and science.

They believed that those areas were — and are — crucial to a well-prepared workforce and a prosperous nation.

But it wasn’t just about helping kids with their homework, Feekes said.

“It’s about developing academic confidence and independent study so that the student can take the knowledge they learn, possess it, and use it for college and the workforce,” she said. 

So, to their offerings of one-on-one tutoring and prep courses for the ACT and SAT tests, they added courses to help children communicate, grow and become leaders.

As part of those offerings, the school is hosting a three-day workshop, Turning Point for Teens, which will help young people define their goals, conquer fears, overcome obstacles to success, make better decisions and gain confidence.

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It will be held Sept. 28-30 at The Antlers and will be facilitated by Paul Martinelli, a motivational speaker who has presented the workshop to thousands of people in the United States and Europe.

According to Martinelli’s website, he surmounted many challenges, including a childhood stutter, to rise from a janitor to a millionaire entrepreneur. 

Martinelli was recruited at age 14 to be a member of the Guardian Angels, a volunteer group that patrolled New York City’s subways and tough neighborhoods elsewhere in the country. By age 22, he was second in command at that organization.

A couple of years later, Martinelli founded At Your Service, a cleaning company, with $200 and a used vacuum. Seeking to grow his business, he studied the work of experts in motivation and human potential, then developed his own creative approaches. He is now president of the John Maxwell Team, an elite group of certified coaches and communicators.

But when he was young, Martinelli developed the perception that he was dumb and dropped out of high school, Feekes said.

“In his late 20s, he met mentors that changed his life,” she said. “Now he heads five multimillion-dollar companies.”

“Imagine for our kids to be mentored by someone like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg or Elon Musk,” Feekes said. “Martinelli is the magnitude of these remarkable individuals in the world of personal development and entrepreneurship.”

The basis for the three-day workshop is “the decision points that made a difference for him,” Feekes said. Participants will learn about those decision points on the first day of the course. On the second day, they will face physical challenges and discover the correlation between physical and mental prowess. On the final day, they will begin framing goals and talk about decision making.

“With some motivational seminars, you get energized but you don’t know what to do with it,” Feekes said. “In this one, you are applying from beginning to end.”

The workshop, which was created as executive leadership training for Fortune 500 companies, will be tailored to young people for the first time here.

Feekes decided to host the workshop after reflecting on the high rates of teen suicide and drug overdoses.

Teens in crisis affect the whole family, Feekes said, hampering employees’ productivity and performance.

“I’m a small-business owner,” she said. “Many companies are thinking about the workforce and the well-being of the family. We’re always looking for what is truly meaningful to employees.”

Feekes said several companies have already offered to sponsor the workshop as a benefit for their employees. She hopes more will follow suit.

“I thought it would be a great way to show employees that businesses care,” she said. “The goal of this workshop is to serve youth from all socio-economic backgrounds, and the support of the business community is vital.”

The workshop costs $1,795 for each teen participant, or $2,200 for a teen and an additional family member — a sibling or parent.

“Parents will get just as much out of it as the students,” Feekes said. Parents and teens will not be working together but will be working in groups with their peers.

Feekes spent the early part of her career as a project manager in the high-tech corporate world. She has also worked with nonprofit organizations that take educational programs to developing countries. She has served on the Pikes Peak Workforce Center investment board and sees After School University as an organization that links together her management, education and workforce development skills.

“I see this workshop as a movement, a ripple effect, a tool for teens to help them navigate life and make good choices that ultimately helps them, helps their family, helps our communities, helps our businesses,” she said.

To register, visit After School University’s website.