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Leader in Me to expand to high schools

Following last week’s unanimous vote by the Vicksburg Warren School District Board of Trustees, VWSD will become one of the first school systems in the world to implement the Leader in Me program from Pre-K though 12th grade.

Starting with the 2017-18 school year, Vicksburg High School, Warren Central High School and River City Early College will be among 25 high schools throughout the world that will be implementing the Leader in Me program at the high school level.

“What this does, it puts us in a very specific marketable place, because you are talking about only 25 in the entire world have a high school model, that’s it,” Superintendent Chad Shealy said. “When the symposiums come open, people will be coming to Vicksburg because you can’t see it anywhere else. That will be a unique offering that we have.”

The Leader in Me program was originally implemented at Bovina and Bowmar Elementary Schools in 2008, and eventually spread to all elementary schools in the district and the Academy of Innovation.

Along with the high schools, Warren Central Intermediate, Vicksburg Intermediate, Warren Central Junior High and Vicksburg Junior High will also add the program this summer.

“It is transformational in the context of a child understands the world is larger than themselves,” Shealy said of the Leader in Me program. “They are setting goals. They are no longer victims, It doesn’t matter who I am, I can get to where I need to go based on these set goals.”

Portions of the original implementation of Leader in Me in the district were funded by $500,00 raised by local businesses. Adding the program in the middle schools was possible because of $400,000 given to the district by the state legislature.

The initial costs to introduce the program at the district’s three high schools will be $87,844.88.

“You are rolling life decisions through this process and a child that can come through elementary, junior to high and has the capacity to be so much more successful because everybody can be a leader no matter where you are in life,” Shealy said.

At the high school level, students will enroll in a Leader in Me course during their freshman year.

“In the elementary schools, it is a holistic approach to the entire school, but here it will be almost like a soft skills class where how do you take the Leader in Me habits and actually apply them to the high school or college setting and the job field,” WCHS principal Eric Green said.

The class will have a set curriculum, but each school will have the freedom to implement the program in the way teachers and students at the school decide is best. Green said they will have a lighthouse team of teachers and students from all four grades that will work together to develop a plan on how Leader in Me will be implemented at the high school level.

“Right now, our plan is to run ninth- graders through that class,” Green said. “It will be somewhat of a mandated elective. Some students, because of their schedules, it may not be on their schedules, but we are going to try to get the majority of ninth-graders scheduled in the class.”

At WCHS, some students will take the Leader in Me course in the fall and others will take it in the spring.

Shealy said since the program was implemented in the district, they have seen a reduction in disciplinary referrals and suspensions, and an increase in attendance.

“Students can now set future goals for themselves, meet their goals and achieve and move that towards jobs,” he said. “That is where we want them to be. We want the kids landing on one of the three E’s—enlisted, enrolled or employed.”

The costs associated with the program include training for teachers, classroom materials and membership in the program.