Student Shows Others How She Rose Above Averages

Dolly Merritt

January 27, 1991|By Dolly Merritt

As a parent whose kids are out of school, I am relieved. No more teachers, no more books, no more when-are-you-going-to-do-your-homework lectures.

But for those of you who have almost given up hope that your children, whom you know can do so much better, will ever reach their potential, don't despair.

Deborah Hartman has a solution.

It is a 12-page study guide called the "A" System, which the former Glenelg High School student haspublished and is selling nationwide.

Hartman, 19, is a textbook example of just how well the "A" System can work.

During her junioryear at Glenelg, Hartman woke to the realization that her C grade-point average would never get her into a competitive college. When she talked to her adviser about boosting her grades to all A's, he was not encouraging.

"He told me I wasn't capable of getting a 4.0," Hartman said, "but I set out to do it anyway."

The changes she made were mostly simple, common-sense steps. And although they came late inher high school years, they worked.

She battled shyness and approached teachers with her questions.

She moved the television out ofher room to avoid the temptation and distraction.

And she saved phone calls with friends until her homework was completed.

There was another advantage to studying in a quiet room, she says. "Once you are in class and have a test in front of you, the silence will be something new and could have a negative result on the test."

Hartman's efforts paid off. During the first half of her senior year, she earned a 4.0 grade-point average -- all A's. And she finished with a 3.92 average for the year when she graduated in 1989.

Hartman, now asophomore at Towson State University, describes herself as a "born-again" student. The same rules apply in college, where she is working toward a double major in English and applied mathematic science with a concentration in computers. She's earned all A's and B's (except for one C in calculus), and hopes to transfer to Rice University in Houston next fall. As for the study guide, it was the result of a middleof the night brainstorm a year ago.

Once the idea hit, she drafted a 12-page outline and filled it with the methods she used to improve her grades. For the logo and packaging, she enlisted the help of her mother, Carolyn Hartman, a graphic designer and watercolor artist with the Watermark Gallery in Baltimore. The duo printed 200 copies, priced each at $14.35 (plus $3 for shipping and handling), and bought ads in magazines including Teen and Working Woman.

"My mother makes the contacts and does the marketing, I do the orders and the letter-writing," Hartman said.

The "A" System study guide includes a binder, folder and memo notebook.

"If students have everything on hand, they won't have to go to an office supply store to get materials -- everything is there -- students have no excuses to keep them from getting to work," Hartman said. The study guide also can be purchased separately for $6.95, plus $1 for shipping and handling.

The spiral blue book's sidebar lists six important steps to good grades: achieving goals, setting priorities, developing skills, challenging oneself, working for success and gaining recognition.

"A student can read the entire book in 20 minutes," Hartman said.

So far, the fledgling "A" System hasn't shown a profit. The initial magazine ads produced only a few orders. But articles in local papers, an appearance on cable TV, and a news spot on Channel 11 initiated a flurry of requests from parents, students and educators who live in the county and state. So far, 92 of the study guides have been sent to places as far away as Hawaii, Puerto Rico and Anchorage, Alaska.

Hartman seems to get a lot of satisfaction from spreading her ideas. She believes thatwith good organization and study habits, anybody's grades can be greatly improved.

"I'm not a genius and you may not be either," she proclaims to students in her book.

Among her first customers was the Village Reading Center in Columbia, a 13-year-old non-public tutoring school.

The "A" System "gets students organized and it's written in a way that students can relate to," said center director Susan Rapp, who has asked Hartman to speak to her students to motivate them for tutoring.

Hartman doesn't expect students to follow every suggestion to the letter because each person may need to tailor the system for himself.

For instance, Holly Siegelman, a 16-year-old junior at Howard High School, said using the memo book portion of the 'A' System helped her most.

"I'm a disorganized person," she said. Sheused to write homework assignments on pieces of paper. Now she can keep track of them in the system's memo book.

"You take what she suggests, and you use it according to your own needs," Holly said. "Once you get what you need, it's a start on a whole new way of doing things; the study guide gives you a better perspective."

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