In my school, each teacher and staff member who works with the 8th grade heads up a "Magnet" - a sort of Advisory group, though that doesn't exactly describe it accurately. Each Magnet is built around a particular interest - Nature, Technology, Social Activism, etc... - and students have to apply and interview to get into the Magnet of their choice. The idea is that each student ends up with one or more adults in the building who knows him or her really well and can act as an advocate or as a spur to staying on top of work.
My Magnet is the Food Magnet.
After several years of trying different Magnet themes with varying degrees of success, I stumbled on an interest that 14 year olds and I actually share in common - a love of, and passion for Food. (Though not generally the same foods.) Over time, we've developed an activity we call "Tastings".