Students Attend First 7th Grade Metro Leadership Academy

Seventh graders from two school districts came together for the first ever Metro Leader Leadership Academy on November 13. Forty-two students from Des Moines Harding, Des Moines Callanan, Waukee South and Waukee Middle Schools participated in the first session of the academy hosted by South Middle School.

The academy was facilitated by J.D. Stites and Jeff Kluever from Drake University’s Robert D. and Billie Ray Center and focused on helping students connect with one another, schools and their communities. Stites and Kluever presented strategies for developing creative solutions, brainstorming, teamwork and leadership that could be used in and out of the classroom.

Joy Linquist, Harding Middle School principal, conceived the idea from a personal leadership academy experience she had when she was in middle school. The experience had such a lifelong impact on her she wanted to create something similar for her students.

“As building leaders we are all working on how staff and students can be culturally proficient,” Joy said. “The idea was to bring kids with different backgrounds together to learn how to communicate and what leadership should look like.”

The four principals’ shared vision was to bring students from all different areas together to show them the powerful effects of collaboration. Students were selected based on teacher recommendations, grades, attendance or by completing an application.

When the students arrived they shared what they were most excited and worried about for the day. Ironically, the responses seemed to mirror each other. Students were worried about meeting new people and excited about meeting new people.

Throughout the event students were encouraged to focus on connecting rather that judging and to work as a team rather than individually. Various inspirational sayings and quotes were presented in an effort to get students thinking about their lives and choices in a different light, including the famous words of Abraham Lincoln, “I don’t like that man, I must get to know him.”

The day ended with a “Shark Tank” activity. Students had 45 minutes to identify a problem, come up with a solution and create a mock “Shark Tank” presentation.

Presentations focused on a variety of different subjects including: a texting and driving awareness campaign directed at teens and their parents; improving self-image by creating duct-tape bracelets that were meant to remind people of their inner beauty; and  a focus on inclusion and reserving judgments by creating an opportunity for students to shadow other students from different schools to gain new perspective.

The “Shark Tank” panel judges will decide which project will be carried through. The second session will be held at Harding Middle School on February 19, 2016.

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