Chamber receives national award

Published 9:47 am Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Big things are happening in the Vicksburg Warren School District through the Leader in Me program, and others are taking note on a national level.

Tuesday, the National Dropout Prevention Network presented the Vicksburg-Warren Chamber of Commerce with the Crystal Star Award in San Antonio, Texas, for its partnership with the school district in the program. The award is given for excellence in dropout recovery, intervention and prevention.

Chamber Executive Director Jane Flowers said she is proud of the Chamber of Commerce.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am

“What happened was just people seeing an issue, and that’s what the Chamber of Commerce has done since its existence in Vicksburg and Warren County,” she said. “They saw an issue years ago and The United Way was a product of the chamber of commerce. The Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau was a product of the chamber of commerce. They used to take care of tourism at the chamber of commerce.”

The Dropout Prevention Network called the program an excellent illustration of school-community collaboration.

“Vicksburg Medical Foundation said they would match dollar for dollar $35,000 this year, and the Rotary Club made a big contribution last year,” Flowers said. “People individually have reached in their pocket and given money to The Leader in Me.”

The cost for implementing The Leader in Me in a school is $90,000, and the Chamber of Commerce has funded more than $300,000 for the initiative.

Flowers, who spent more than 30 years in education, said her favorite part is that it teaches students personal responsibility.

“I used to place students on the job and see, that’s what employers want,” she said. “They want people who are going to show up, do their work, take interest, willing to learn, solve problems and have a basic education. What I see with this is these students feel empowered because we’re not focusing on their weaknesses, we’re building on their strengths.”

Flowers said she believes the initiative has the opportunity to help the county, and she’s glad to see it is gaining popularity.

“If this is working for us and if this is answering some of those questions of personal responsibility, giving people a voice and empowering people, that will keep them in school and that’s the whole idea of this award.”

Flowers, along with Vicksburg Warren School District Superintendent Chad Shealy and School Board President Bryan Pratt were onsite in San Antonio to accept the award.

Shealy said the district nominated the chamber of commerce after being prompted by the organization.

“It was a unique opportunity for us,” he said. “We had one of their representatives from Clemson who was down to see Leader in Me at Dana Road Elementary and interviewed Sherry (Williams, principal) and saw the program and they were so taken back by the progress that they saw at Dana Road that they contacted us and asked us to recommend the chamber for the award because they were so impressed with what was going on here.”

Shealy said they followed suit and the chamber of commerce was selected.

“That’s a pretty big deal to have a national award coming home to Vicksburg,” he said.

The Leader in Me is based on the popular book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” by Stephen Covey. The program is designed to teach children these habits and make them more successful in school and more prepared for after-school life.

The 7 Habits is a synthesis of universal principals of personal and interpersonal effectiveness such as responsibility, vision, integrity, teamwork, collaboration and renewal.

Dana Road Elementary, Redwood Elementary, Beechwood Elementary, Bovina Elementary and Bowmar Elementary have all implemented Leader in Me. Bowmar Elementary and Bovina Elementary were the first two school in the state to become a lighthouse, or model, schools.

“We have created a stronger desire to lead themselves, and we’ve increased expectations for (students’) behavior,” Bowmar Elementary Principal Tammy Burris told The Dropout Prevention Network. “The adults also lead themselves with the seven habits, and we’re seeing life changes. We are more than test scores at our school; we’re here to help students become productive citizens for success in life. Because of The Leader in Me, which we started in 2012, we are seeing great results and the impact is growing.”