There is much disagreement about what works best in education, but if the seniors on the Los Angeles Loyola track team are any indication, the answer is simple: parental involvement.
Four of the six Loyola seniors who competed in the Southern Section track and field championships Saturday at Cerritos College are headed to Ivy League schools, and the others will attend Stanford and Loyola Marymount. Another senior, who was eliminated at the Division II preliminaries, will enroll at Yale.
In virtually every case, the teenagers credited their parents for pushing, prodding and participating in their academic journeys.
"They kind of made me want to be successful and after that, they didn't have to motivate me or give me rewards," said 800-meter specialist Justin Reed, bound for Stanford.
Marcus Lawrence, a hurdler headed to Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business, said, "Some people don't grow up in a home or environment conducive to learning. My mom and dad did a great job surrounding me with great people."
Julio Martinez, a distance runner set to attend Yale, will be the first member of his family to go to college. His parents were born in Mexico, and they made clear what they expected of him.
"When I was little, they'd help me and make sure I did my school stuff before I went to play, and it kind of sunk in," he said. "For me, my job was school. They wanted me to do well because they knew that's how I was going to make it in life."
What parental participation does from an early age is give a child an advocate and support system through good and bad times. If all goes as planned, by the time high school arrives, everyone knows the expectations, and doing homework becomes as routine as brushing teeth.
Of course, it helps that these Loyola students have benefited from being surrounded by highly motivated classmates at a private school whose mission is to prepare them for college and beyond.
"By being so competitive, it fuels you to do better," said triple jumper Keyon Mitchell, bound for Loyola Marymount.
But even the most optimistic would find it unusual that so many classmates on the same track team have made it to the most demanding of colleges.
Joining Lawrence at Pennsylvania will be Scott Hernandez, a 400-meter runner. Joining Martinez at Yale is long jumper Reynolds Holmes. Going to Dartmouth is shotputter Jonathan Summers.
"When we were freshmen, I don't think we all imagined we'd go to Ivy League schools," Lawrence said.
Academics, not athletics, was the driving force that got these students into prestigious universities.
"They're all two-sport athletes with fabulous academics," Coach Michael Porterfield said. "I feel honored standing next to them."
None are coasting in their senior years. Most are taking Advanced Placement classes to give them a head start on college.
"I'm buried in books," Holmes said last week while preparing for an AP test and training for track.
But don't think they stand around discussing Albert Einstein's theory of relativity.
"It's girls and all the social stuff, where they're going this weekend," Porterfield said.
Of course, trash talking about which of their Ivy League schools is going to triumph next fall is sneaking into the conversations.
Lawrence is going to play receiver at Penn, and he could be covered by Holmes, who wants to be a defensive back for Yale's football team.
"It's going to be a fun game," Holmes said.
Getting on planes this fall will be a difficult but necessary step along their paths toward adulthood.
"I'm cherishing these days because at this time next year, I don't know what I'll be doing," Holmes said. "I'm going to miss nice packed lunches and being able to have a person [at home] to talk to."
Holmes is just hoping his mother doesn't forget to send money -- and occasional care packages -- to Yale.
"Maybe some peanut-butter cookies," he said.
\o7Eric Sondheimer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.