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Finding Success Through ESS


In its 30 years, our Educational Support Services (ESS) team has helped countless Heritage students overcome academic challenges and find success beyond the school years. One such student is Matt Kistler (‘02), who still uses the organizational methods he learned from ESS in his professional and personal life today.

Kistler Family
Matt & Jenny Kistler with their children.

When Matt came to Heritage in the middle of 5th grade, he began to struggle academically.

“It was a really rebellious time for me trying to figure out who I was and what I was doing,” he said.

Matt’s grades continued to slip as he entered high school, so his parents hired then math teacher Erik Smith to tutor him in Algebra. They quickly realized that there was a disconnect in Matt’s abilities and his performance.

“I would understand the math when we worked together, but as soon as I had to do a math problem on my own, I was clueless,” said Matt.

Matt’s parents opted to have him tested with Julie Hight, now Director of ESS. Julie discovered that he had some attention and organizational issues. From that point on, Matt met with Julie about once a week for the remainder of high school. Julie primarily taught Matt organizational methods to stay on top of his school work and to manage how to prioritize assignments. She’d also ask his teachers for weekly summaries on missed homework and grades.

“Much of my problem wasn’t that I was lazy, but that I just wasn’t organized enough to get my work completed,” said Matt.

The perpetual accountability eventually led to confidence; having started high school with a GPA in the 2.0 range out of 4.0, Matt graduated with a 3.5.

Matt and Jenny Kistler
Jenny & Matt in 1999 at the HCS Winter Formal.

“Just by her working with me, getting my assignments done, teaching me to be disciplined, and working with my teachers, my grades and my confidence went up,” he said. “Having someone say, ‘You absolutely can do this and I’m on your team’ is really phenomenal.”

Matt went on to graduate from Taylor University with a degree in biblical studies, then pursued a career in insurance. He still uses the ESS organizational methods, carrying with him a grid journal and writing down to-do’s throughout each day.

He doesn’t think he would have made it into college or excelled in a profession without Julie’s help.

“The older you get, the more you have to juggle. Had Julie not helped me, I don’t know what I would have been doing now,” said Matt. “That organization has been vital to my life.”

Matt is still very connected to the Heritage community. He married his high school sweetheart, Jenny, who is also an alum and a former HCS high school teacher. They have three girls and a baby boy; the girls attend Heritage and are in 4th grade, 2nd grade, and kindergarten.

Kistler Family
Matt & Jenny Kistler with their children.