Ninth grade is a year of awakening. It’s like the moment when . . .

Peter Parker discovers his amazing spider powers.
Katniss Everdeen realizes her unique strength and talent.
Batman takes Robin under his wing and trains him how to fight crime.

Ninth grade is the year our kids truly begin to discover who they are and embark on journeys of unimagined power.

For me, ninth grade couldn’t have come soon enough. In eighth grade, I got kicked off my basketball team because I’d forged the signature on my health physical. I got a D in math and Cs in other classes. In the middle of the year, my family moved to a low-income neighborhood, and I had to navigate a new school.

Four years later, as a senior, I was an all-state athlete and in the top one percent of my class. I was accepted by every college I applied to—including Harvard and Yale—and I had confidence that I’d never imagined possible in middle school.

There was something about ninth grade that forever changed the trajectory of my future. I realize my experience is unique, but it points to the potential of this phase to change a person’s story and launch them into adulthood.

Sure, ninth grade doesn’t come without challenges. There are new academic pressures, the hormones of puberty are still running high, and the opportunity to participate in unhealthy activities has never been greater. But don’t let that overshadow the unprecedented possibilities.

Teenagers in this phase begin to self-reflect in ways that weren’t possible in middle school. In my ninth grade year, a mentor gave me a journal where I could write about the things that mattered to me. I didn’t just write about girls, my classes, or sports. I wrote about my faith. My goals. My dreams. Ninth grade changed me because someone empowered me to discover who I really was.

Taking time to reflect didn’t mean my problems went away. My family still lived in low-income housing all throughout high school. My father was legally blind and didn’t work. My mother made less than $10 an hour. And my best friend, my brother Tewolde, was killed by a drunk driver my sophomore year.

But those challenges didn’t detract from what was happening in me as I became aware of who I was made to be. That’s why I’ve spent the last fifteen years speaking to over a million students. I’m always looking for that moment of awakening. That moment when a kid realizes they can be and do more than they ever thought.

That’s the challenge I would give to every parent. Rediscover your ninth grader with fresh eyes, and empower them to rediscover who they are. Don’t allow yourself to buy into the myth that high school students are lazy, uninspired, or self-absorbed. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Ninth graders are superheroes, ready to give and grow in incredible ways.

– Mawi Asgedom

CEO of Mawi Learning, Author, Speaker, & Educator

Parenting Your Ninth Grader

A concise and interactive guide that simplifies what you need to know about freshmen in general and gives you a place to discover more about your ninth grader—so you can make the most of this phase.

You aren’t sure you can name your teen’s new friends (or where they met them), but you might be in one of the best phases of your child’s life. THIS IS THE PHASE WHEN FRIENDSHIPS SHIFT, GRADES COUNT, AND INTERESTS CHANGE SO OFTEN YOUR TEENAGER HAS TO EXPLAIN, “THIS IS ME NOW.”

Don’t have a ninth grader? We’ve got a book for every age at