Can you manage the rocks in your life?

By Kelly Barnard

It’s a quiet Sunday afternoon and you’re dreaming of the things you would like to accomplish. Law School, marathon running, sailing, get in shape. The list will vary depending on your goals, age, stage in life. Then somehow it’s 5 years later and you’re still in a job you hate or not making and progress in life. Why is this? Do you find yourself spending inordinate amounts of time occupied by the internet? The TV? Do you hear yourself saying, ‘I wish I had time to learn x.’ Do you complain that you never have time for your dreams?


Where does all this time go? It’s lost to the Time Thief. It’s happened to the best of us! It’s pretty much the same scenario. You sit down to computer to check your checking account balance or look for a recipe on Pinterest and you slip down the rabbit hole. Soon enough, you’ve watched an episode of Friends you’ve seen at least a dozen times or pinned things for projects you have no intention of starting or crafts you have no interest in making or played Candy Crush for the last hour.


SOAR Study Skills (Kruger, 2007) suggests dividing your life into three categories:

  1. The Rocks: These are the big things in life. Perhaps you want to finish your degree, or pursue marathon running or sailing or you want to learn to knit. Maybe you want to date.
  2. The Pebbles: These are the activities you must do. This category includes things, like eating, sleeping, working or going to school. These activities occur daily and are required tasks.
  3. The Water: These are the activities we get to do if we have spare time. They include playing video games, watching tv, etc. These are fun activities to do as time allows but are filler to the rest of our lives.


When you’re older and look back on your life, will you remember that you beat some video game? Will you even still have your Pinterest or Facebook?

Will you regret that you didn’t pursue a doctorate or take up a lifelong hobby? Maybe or maybe not. If you spend all your extra time pursuing the “water” in your life, you will never have room for the boulders. The idea is that you’ve lived your life to its fullest, taken advantage of all the things life has to offer and look back on your life with a smile. Just think how much extra time you would have if you put down the phone or the XBox controller! Try dividing your life into the three categories. Take the time to separate your life into the required and optional. Set goals for larger things you want for the Rock section. Make sure you’re making time for all the tasks in your life.


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A voice from the other side by Hope Stone

I was a public school teacher for five years. I will always consider myself a teacher. The drive and empathy that many teachers have when starting out what will continue to ensure that I feel in my heart that I am a teacher.

~ Only, I no longer have four walls, a chalkboard and 30 some students. ~

Some days that hurts, other days I remember that I took a stand for my own personal goals and that meant that I needed to step out of the classroom environment. What I can tell you is that I continue to learn daily at ERG how to help children succeed, a feeling that I begin to feel slip away from me in the public school system.


I applaud each and every one of you for taking the steps necessary to ensure your/ your child’s success. It is never too late to start on the path for better planning, reading retention, memory processing. Even better, it’s never too early to start! A question that I want to pose to you today, what can you do to better help connect the programs at ERG, to home, to school and then back to ERG? I know from experience that teachers are impacted by their jobs constantly; way after the school bell rings and even after school is out for the summer. Last summer I even found myself drawing out classroom seating arrangements in the middle of July! I loved to celebrate my students’ accomplishments when I could notice them. Positive reinforcement really does work! On the flip side, there were days when I would be at a complete loss as to what would help a particular child. I didn’t know back then that there was a place like ERG to send them to. If you haven’t told your teacher about the program that your child is completing at ERG, do it! While you are at it, ask if there is anything else you can do to assist. You might find that the teacher could use some of the knowledge from ERG to help in the classroom even more. They may just appreciate a parent that is willing to appreciate what they do rather than criticize. When I was a kid, my dad and I would watch the 5pm news, dinner at 6 and we would talk as a family. This has become a lost art having busier schedules than ever but find some time to discuss how they feel about the programs at ERG and if they feel the same way in the classroom. You may be surprised! Do not underestimate the importance of one day, one month or one year in a child’s education. Every day is important and they are constantly observing and learning and we want to make sure that they are learning in the best way possible!

Here is an additional article with some practical advice if you are not sure why or how to have frequent conversations with your children!

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A Fresh Start By: Kristen Fassler

Now that it is September, the realization that summer is out and school is in has hit students. No matter if you are in Middle School or Graduate School, the feelings are generally the same. Who really wants to let go of awesome vacations, summer camps, ice cream and snowballs, and the best part of summer, sleeping in! Just because we have to trade in our swimsuits and flip flops for school clothes and backpacks doesn’t mean that exciting new adventures cease. I know, I know. You’re thinking to yourself “This girl is crazy!” Just stay with me for a moment.

Starting a new semester or school year is kind of like the real New Year for students. Essentially, we are embarking on a new chapter in our lives, even if it is in the middle of the year. This is the perfect time for us to revamp our habits and make the changes we promised ourselves we would make last year. This could be anything from wanting to stay more organized, turning in all of your homework in on time, exercising more, being more social in school, or my personal favorite, ending procrastination. Now, just like the regular New Year, we often lose sight of our goals about a month in. I will be the first to admit that I have vowed to start my work early and not wait until the last minute, and then ended up pulling an all nighter writing a 5 page paper due the next day. So let’s talk about how you and I both can make these changes stick. First, we need to realize why we are procrastinating, or waiting until the last minute to do our work. Then we can go over way to overcome these reasons.

It’s overwhelming! When you have a long term paper or what seems to be a super in-depth

project, it can seem like an unbearable amount of work and cause a shut down. (Do you ever have so much work to do that you just lay down and take a nap instead? Oh, no? It’s just me? –I wouldn’t suggest it)

What can we do? Break the task down into smaller, easier to handle tasks. It is much easier to stomach researching topics, outlining your ideas and writing a rough draft as three different assignments than it is to try to do all of these steps and a final draft in one setting.

I don’t know where to start! Believe it or not, simply starting the work can be the hardest part. This is called Task Initiation. Whether you don’t know where to start or you just don’t feel like starting, this can be a real pain.

What can we do? Make a plan and stick to it. Also, you can draw from the first reason we talked about and pick a simple task to begin with. Something as simple as picking your topic, or view point, for a paper is a great start and it will get you moving on the rest of the task.

I have so much other work to do! Sometimes we have a lot of work to do for other classes. That doesn’t mean we should put off an assignment until the last minute.

What can we do? When we have a ton of work to do it can seem like there aren’t enough hour in the day, but it all depends on what you do with the 24 hours you are given. The best way to handle this is to make a realistic schedule for you and stick to it. If something comes up and throws off your schedule, it’s okay be flexible, just make sure you have a backup plan and follow it.

I hope these tips help! Let’s have a great school year ÔÇôFrom beginning to end!

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The Journey To A Clean Room: A Practical Application of Executive Functions By: Reid Conley

The other day I was faced with the daunting task of cleaning my room, and I was less than excited by that prospect. Now, I am an adult and consider myself to have reached an adult level of maturity in many respects, but when it comes to cleaning my room I still act like a child. I simply cannot bring myself to do it and will sometimes throw (very adult and mature) temper tantrums. Some might call that sad, and they would be right. My mother calls me lazy, but I always point out that I prefer to be considered as having a deficit in my ability to initiate tasks. I usually just say this to be funny, but recently I was thinking about this and it occurred to me that we use such executive skills as task initiation, and many others, in even our daily and most mundane tasks without even thinking about it. So as I retell the adventure of cleaning my room I would like to point out all the executive skills that were being used as I went along (details may be exaggerated for entertainment purposes, I am not this filthy in reality).

As I drew back the door to my lair and gazed upon the desolate wasteland of trash, clothes, chinchilla droppings and other odds and ends that never found their way home, I found myself unable to begin. I found myself facing the eternal quandary of where to begin. So the struggle with task initiation is actually a real one. A weaker man may have shied away, but not me. I took a deep breath and stepped into the room. The first step was finding a first step. A couple separate skills had to be used simultaneously at this point in order to proceed effectively, planning and prioritizing and goal directed persistence. I needed to set a goal, or goals, and then plan steps in order to reach those goals. The cogs spun in the ole bean for a moment, and I separated everything that needed to be done into smaller jobs. Clothes needed to be sorted and cleaned, board games and others miscellaneous items needed to be replaced on shelves, clean clothes needed to be folded and put away, trash needed to be thrown out and the floor needed to be swept. Now my goals were set and I just needed to decide which ones needed to get done first. The above order seemed best as that started at the top layer of the ocean untidiness.

Everything was going swimmingly when I happened across one of my old favorite toys beneath my bed, G.I. Joe. I stopped what I was doing and was overtaken by a nostalgic wave which caused me to take a slight detour off the road of productivity leading towards the realm of distraction. I delighted myself for a moment holding an action figure in each hand making them do well choreographed and masterful karate moves. I will not share how long this went on, but point is, I had just failed to effectively execute the use of my sustained attention on the original task, another obstacle in the way completing my quest.

I had now reached the point of organizing my board games. I have an impressive collection of them, impressive being word only fellow board games collectors might attribute to it of course; otherwise it may just be referred to as nerdy or strange. I had taken a great many of them to various locations and had neglected to put them back on their shelves when they returned. They now sat in the middle of the room in small piles. The next executive function that demanded use was organization. I have two separate shelves I put my board games on, one is high up and one is lower. First I had to separate the games into ones I play often and ones I don’t. The ones I play often go on the lower shelf. Then I had to figure out how to make all of them fit on that shelf. It takes some figuring out, it is very much a puzzle and the shelf was crammed full. Organization achieved.

The remainder of the cleaning went on without a hitch and the task was complete. One final skill was needed before I was officially finished, metacognition. This is the ability to look at yourself from a birds-eye view and assess your own performance in something. I looked upon my work and my assessment was that I had done a job well done.

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The Power Of Pokemon By: Garrett Denzler

Summer is here at last! It’s the time to hit the beach, explore new places, and train your brain. But most importantly, it’s time to catch up on some video games that couldn’t be played during the school year since studying, planning out long-term projects, and doing homework needed all of your attention. Most would consider video games to be mindless time-wasters that have no value, but that is not always the case. For instance, most Pokemon games can help keep your brain strong! Most Pokemon games require long-term memory, prioritization, and great processing speed!
Back when Pokemon first came out, there were only 151 of them. Memorizing the names, types, and stats of this many Pokemon is a challenging task for anyone! Today, there are over 700 different Pokemon! In order to become a Pokemon master, one must not only know all the names, types, abilities, and stats of all the Pokemon that exist, but they must also know how each one will be usable in a team dynamic! Pokemon masters have to keep up with the new Pokemon that are being discovered and remember all the ones from years ago! In order to do this, a great Pokemon Master must have strong long-term memory.
Out of the 700+ Pokemon that exist today, a Pokemon trainer can only choose 6, or fewer, to use at a time. This requires some major prioritization. A Pokemon trainer must think about the types, stats, abilities, and moves of his or her Pokemon. Then, he or she must analyze how the Pokemon will work in a team dynamic and determine if a particular Pokemon belongs in a team at all. After a selection for a team has been somewhat narrowed down based on types, stats, etc., a Pokemon trainer must decide what sort of battling strategy is best suited for his or her battling style; some like big Pokemon that can attack with bruit force, some like Pokemon with special abilities and moves that can slowly but surely wear down the opponent, and some like Pokemon that simply look cool. Whichever you decide on, be sure to identify, plan, and prioritize the Pokemon and battling strategies you will be implementing and you will be a Pokemon Master in no time.
Especially when it comes to competitive Pokemon battling, a trainer must have excellent processing speed. A Pokemon trainer must think about all the possibilities of the direction in which the battle could go, then decide which move to make first, all within the 60-second time limit they give you to make your decision! Being able to prioritize and decide what is most important to your strategy plays a role in this timed decision as well.
Pokemon is a much more complex game than some would think. Good Pokemon trainers must plan and prioritize the dynamic of their teams based on many different factors. In order to do this, trainers must also know and remember all of the Pokemon that exist to ensure they are aware of all their options so they can build the best team they can. Lastly, Pokemon trainers must be able to analyze and process the battling situation quickly in order to be successful in competitive battling. Therefore, only those with the highest executive functioning skills can be deemed as true Pokemon Masters. Just make sure to use those newly improved prioritization skills to let your Pokemon rest when papers and homework have to get done.
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Spring Cleaning: For the Parent and Child Alike!

By Meisner, ERG Coach

Happy Spring, everyone! We have finally reached the point in the year where going outside no longer makes us cringe. With the onset of beautiful weather, we often find new reason to get happy and healthy. Every year we clean out our closets and our cabinets, but what about our brains? It is possible that though we benefit from de-cluttering our homes, we are unaware of the potential that is waiting to be dusted off within our minds. It is even more likely that our children, who love a messy room, will find even less value in a “clean brain.” Stress becomes a part of us, as do our piles of papers. When we have downtime, we feel obligated to become busy; we feel guilty for taking a quiet hour to watch t.v. instead of answering emails. Our kids begin preparing for finals, taking back on the pressure that has just dissipated from midterms! So how can we cleanse ourselves, after our closets are clean?


Mindfulness. To be mindful is to be present, and to call upon reasoning for your own actions. It is to connect your mind and body to your emotions that occurs alongside these actions, and as a result, create a new awareness in everything that you do.


Many adults are catching on to the wonder that is “mindfulness,” whether it be in the form of solid emotional meditation, physical meditations like yoga, or reflection through journals. However, similar and modified practices can be equally helpful to our kids, those who suffer from attention problems, the inability to execute tasks successfully, and especially those who have little control over emotional responses. These are the kids who come home from school repeatedly with notes in their folders about incomplete work, about talking too much, etc.; and while it seems like an impossible task to ask this child to be mindful, this is a process that can be built up over time.


Here’s a mindfulness challenge! Practice these steps alongside your struggling child.

1. Make your to-do lists.

2. Begin your list while communicating. If your buddy has trouble starting, ask them which tasks seems easiest and why. Which tasks seems the most difficult? Why? Work and talk.

3. Create an empty space in your mind with each task that is completed or each room that is cleaned.

4. While you are actively making space, ask yourself how you feel. Have a conversation with yourself about your intentions.

4. After a few tasks, reflect quietly on the spaces, on the things you’ve completed. Ask your child about their small accomplishments. How do they feel? (They will take more time than you on tasks. This is okay. The tasks are not the main goal, but the thoughts.)

5. Talk with your child about being “present” in their actions. Cleaning is frustrating? Or having so many items is overwhelming? In this calm state, it may be unbelievably easy to get your non-talker or your too-much-talker to open up about real things, such as how it really feels when their teacher yells at them or why they don’t do their homework. If it isn’t at first, have no fear.

6. Tell your child something you like about them. Then something you like about yourself!


Tasks have been completed, and now there is a calmness with which you can proceed as you please. These steps can be changed in an infinite amount of ways. The purpose is to create an initial routine that after just a few weeks, instills in our brains the ability to breathe, make space, create clarity, and reflect. The routine will dissipate, but the intentions will remain. The impulsive child, with practice, may begin to think before they speak or react violently to others. The chaotic parent, with as much practice, may begin to be more present at dinner or at soccer games. Mindfulness creates a sense of tangibility when we feel out of control; it is planning without planning, in that it becomes completely natural and immediate. You learn about yourself when you have the peace to do so. So, for all of you seeking clarity, there is hope! Explore mindfulness in its varied forms. I wish you a happy and healthy Spring!

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By James, Admin Staff

We all have goals and aspirations for the future. For instance, last month people around the world rang in the New Year with resolutions to improve something in their lives. Whether it was to get in better shape, reach out to old friends, or simply strive to be a better person, the intent was to change a behavior.

Well here we are in February and I can tell you from personal experience, it’s easier said than done! The weather in most parts of the US is miserable this time of year. It’s ironic that optimism is quickly met with retrenchment; I find it easier to get comfortable by watching the latest Oscar nominated film than to go for a run, order takeout rather than finding a fresh and healthy alternative.

A few years ago, I learned about a psychological phenomenon known as the Zeigarnik Effect. Simply put, it postulates that uncompleted tasks tend to be remembered longer in our short-term memory whereas tasks that we avoid, such as not abiding by our New Year’s resolution, have a negative effect on our long-term memory. What does all this argot mean?

By not going for a run on let’s say Monday, I will regret that decision for about a day. As a result, I will tend to remember more about the circumstances of why I didn’t act (i.e. bad weather, daily stress, etc.) Had I gone for a run, the details surrounding that decision would be more vague; I acted therefore the task is complete.

This leads me back to why I chose to title this blog Maintenance. Simply by doing, we create positive feedback that reinforces the behavior. Eating healthy or exercising at least once a week instead of thinking about eating healthy or exercising causes one to reduce stress and anxiety –key inhibitors of maintaining a plan or routine. So next time when I find myself thinking that I should have, I will remind myself that even if I give it a try, that’s better than not having attempted it at all.

James C.

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New Year’s Resolutions: Healthy Sleep Habits for Kids & Teens

By Gina Muir, ERG Coach

Now that the excitement of the holidays has passed, many families are settling back into a routine for the winter. Instead of viewing it as a letdown, we should all try to make a fresh start for healthy habits in the New Year. Elaborate New Year’s resolutions are common –and commonly broken within a few weeks –even if the intentions behind the changes are solid. Encouraging children and teenagers to get enough sleep is an important healthy habit that parents can do to foster ideal learning environments and keep them in their best mental and physical shape. We all know that lack of sleep is one of the most obvious issues that can impact older children‘s health and education; distractions are seemingly everywhere that prevent a healthy sleep schedule. How can parents encourage their teenagers and older children to be as healthy as possible?

We all know that sleep is a vital regulation of bodily and brain functions in developing children. According to, one study found that only 15% of teenagers got a minimum of 8.5 hours on school nights. Teenagers need at least 8.5-9.25 hours of sleep to function optimally. Of course we know that most teenagers have little desire to get to bed early, with distractions like technology that include TV, social media, and video games (not to mention a heavy workload of school assignments). Does that mean they don’t really need all that sleep? No, goes on to state that “ biological sleep patterns shift toward later times for both sleeping and waking during adolescence –meaning it is natural to not be able to fall asleep before 11:00 pm”. But the reality of the situation is that students often times need to get up in the morning before 6am to catch the bus and get to school on time. Often times, natural circadian rhythms of the body have to take a backseat to our modern lifestyle. It would be ideal if older children had the opportunity to wake up later, but most of us don’t have that luxury. Consequences of not getting enough sleep are integrated throughout nearly all aspects of a person’s ability to function. According to the American Psychological Association, research suggests that students who routinely gets just 25 minutes of sleep less that their peers are more likely to report grades of C’s, D’s, and below rather than A’s or B’s.

Adolescent sleep difficulties are associated with depression and ADHD. Concentration, problem solving, listening, and comprehension are impacted, and hormonal changes can lead to moodiness and aggressive behavior. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “drowsiness and fatigue cause over 100,000 traffic accidents every year and young drivers are behind the wheel on over half of these cases.” Hormonal imbalances from sleep deficiencies can also have an impact on physical appearance for some teenagers, leading to skin breakouts and unhealthy eating/weight gain. When a child is sleep deprived, they will naturally avoid exercise and often times choose snacks that are high in carbs and sugar in an effort to boost energy. Caffeine is seen as a quick fix but is no substitute for what a developing body is truly craving –at least eight solid hours of sleep.

So how can parents encourage healthy sleep habits for their older children who might be resistant to change? Simply removing technology from the bedroom might be a good option so that they aren’t distracted by entertainment. If that doesn’t go over so well, simply encourage them to get to bed with lights out just 15 minutes earlier each day. Once they notice that they are more alert during the school day, they should recognize the benefits. A nap after school can seem like a lifesaver to an exhausted teen, but it’s not an ideal habit to get into. If teenagers rely on evening naps to make up their sleep deficits this ensures that they stay up even later at night. Breaking the cycle by avoiding naps and instead getting to sleep earlier is a much healthier choice. Everyone knows that after a good night’s sleep they are more alert and focused, have more energy, and generally feel better overall. Of course we all want this for not only our children but also ourselves. Parents should try to model good sleep habits so that their children can recognize that getting at least 8 hours should be the norm.

Let’s make a resolution for 2015 to develop healthy sleep habits for our kids (and ourselves!) to keep them functioning optimally both physically and mentally. Something as simple as getting to bed a little earlier each night could have dramatic benefits in health and in the classroom.

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Planning Makes For Less Work!

By Stephanie Bertran, ERG Coach

While growing up, I learned that planning was an important skill in my family. Unfortunately, this was not a natural gift of mine. After watching my family members implement planning and prioritizing in their daily lives, however, I realized just how important it was. When I began working at the ERG, I was introduced to many different ways to plan and prioritize. Being a visual person, I really appreciated the different charts, lists, and planners that can be used to break a to-do list into very clear steps.

My favorite tool is the Planning and Prioritizing list. This sheet allows for the student to write down their to-do list on the left side and then to re-write it on the right side in order of importance. Since most people do not think of things they have to do in a prioritized order, but rather in random patterns, this chart allows them to maintain their natural way of thinking. Most importantly, it helps train the student to recognize the most important items and prioritize them. Even though I am no longer in school, I still find charts and lists like these extremely helpful in my busy life.

I really enjoy being able to sit down and work with a student who struggles with these skills. I love showing them how to organize their overwhelming to-do lists and watching the discouragement and despair slowly melt away. A lot of times, it is easy to feel overwhelmed when trying to remember everything that has to be done and when the deadlines are. Just writing everything down in an organized manner can often take a lot of the pressure off. It becomes more manageable when it is on a physical list rather than just in your head.

As the school year gets busier and busier, these skills of planning and prioritizing become even more valuable. Prioritizing is a skill that needs to be taught. People are not just born with the amazing ability to plan and prioritize their day or week. This is something that must be learned and practiced. All of our students have the ability to organize their life and stay on top of their schedule, they just need someone to help guide them in the right direction. I find it very rewarding to be able to share this valuable skill with my students.

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Pratice Makes Better

By Amanda B., ERG Coach

From a young age, most of us are taught that we can do anything if we just “put our mind to it”. But what does “putting our mind to it” mean? If I put a calculus book to my head, I cannot magically know how to derive a function. If I stare REALLY intensely at my guitar, I cannot miraculously play “Free Bird”. All skills must be acquired through learning. Some people say their skills just came “naturally”, and this may be true. However, every single person has a skill that is not yet obtained or can be improved. To improve in a skill, you must work through the frustration and keep practicing until the task becomes manageable.

Since I began working at the Educational Resource Group, I have had the pleasure of gaining a great deal of knowledge on executive functions. Executive functions, located in the frontal lobe of the brain, help an individual process, remember, and organize information. This part of the brain develops over a long period of time and needs to be worked out in order to stay strong just like the muscles in a body. For some individuals, executive function skills come fairly easily. For others, it takes practice, but it is very possible to gain strength in areas of weakness as long as they are worked out and proper strategies are put into play.

Working at ERG, I have had the privilege of understanding and improving on my own weak areas. One thing that has improved greatly since I began training at ERG is my time management. I have never been great at being places on time. As I grew older, I saw the importance of being prompt. I said quite a few times that I was going to change, but it never really panned out how I expected. I just figured that this was who I was and it was never changing. After working at ERG and learning what I need to do to be certain that I would be on time for my students, I realized it was possible to be on time in all aspects of my life. I just needed to put the same strategies into play. This was hard work. I had to set multiple alarms on my phone. I had to remember to take traffic into consideration and if I needed to stop and get gas on the way, etc. The little things that I had never put much thought into before were corrected through planning and a lot of practice. This is just one example of the topics coaching at ERG covers.

The same idea comes into play with the students that come to ERG. School is tough, and for people who struggle with learning disabilities and executive functions, gaining an education can seem impossible. The difficulties students face can lead to problems with anxiety, depression, and other disorders, and all this starts because they struggle with processing information or have a tough time reading at the level of their peers. The good news is struggles in school can become easier to handle as long as strategies are put into practice. At ERG, students work on their weaknesses and gain a sense of pride in their ability to succeed. I’m not going to sugar coat it and say that as soon as you come to ERG all the problems miraculously go away. What I am saying is, I have seen my students slowly and steadily improve through hard work and dedication to their program. I have personally seen how ERG gives hope to students, and changes their outlook on education.

Through understanding and practice, every individual has a chance to gain the education they desire. While it takes time for these processes to strengthen and grow, anything is possible with hard work and dedication. I have seen firsthand the amazing results the Educational Resource Group has to offer, and I am proud to say I am a part of a group that gives hope and encouragement to all who walk through the door!

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