Fox Chapel Middle School student leaders are growing in numbers. They can be identified by name tags or when they wear their black T-shirts that say "I am a Leader at Fox Chapel Middle School."
They are a result of a new program, the Leader in Me, which is being fully implemented this year.
Some of them were very visible at the school's recent annual Title I parent meeting, where the student leaders assisted in greeting and directing visitors around the school. Some made a presentation about the first three of the "7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens."
Eighth-graders Olivia Mitchell, 13; Donavan Cavanagh, 14; Jasmin Dardiz, 13; Alyssa Stepinsky, 13, and seventh-graders Bailey Hunt, 12; Nicole Ricole, 12; and Samantha Miller, 12, were the presenters. They were selected by teacher recommendation because, Olivia said, "We follow the rules. We're responsible."
The idea of placing students in visible leadership roles stems from Sean Covey's book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens: The Miniature Edition, based on his father Stephen Covey's book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.
The Leader in Me program began at the elementary school level.
"We're the only school in Hernando County implementing it in middle school," said Fox Chapel principal Ray Pinder.
Its basic premise is leadership development.
During the summer, Fox Chapel teachers and staffers underwent three days of training on the program. The students learned about it during the first three days of school.
"Our goal," Pinder said, "is to incorporate leadership into everything we do."
The students have been applying to be on leadership teams. They must earn recommendations from teachers.
"Students want to be leaders," Pinder said. "This offers them that opportunity. I want the kids to be leaders of themselves. Then we can get them to be better students."
The school is also getting parents involved. It has held one workshop and three more are scheduled. The program was explained to parents who missed the first workshop at the Title I meeting.
That's where the student leaders took over. On the cafeteria stage, Jasmin welcomed parents and guests and explained the black T-shirts, saying, "We are the student leaders that volunteered to stay after school and created an action team to lead the presentation here tonight."
Jasmin introduced Donavan to explain the first habit of highly effective teens: "Be proactive." Samantha and Olivia gave examples of how they accept responsibility and make good choices.
Nicole introduced the second habit: "Begin with the end in mind." Bailey and Alyssa explained their goals. Olivia told parents about the third habit: "Put first things first." Samantha and Donavan explained how they prioritize.
Offstage, Samantha explained why she applied to be a leader.
"I think it's important because we can show other kids how to have proper behavior, and also we can teach kids that other kids are important, too. It's like monkey see, monkey do."
Said Bailey: "I think it's very important for people to learn the habits and connect them to their lives just like we all do."
Donavan said he wanted to be a leader, but was getting his homework in late. He turned that around; his teacher saw his potential, and he received his recommendation.
"It's paid off for me and her (and) my parents," he said.
Alyssa said described the leadership program as "like a chain reaction sort of thing."
"One student starts doing it," she said, "then another, and it leads to everyone knowing."
She said she has noticed a change in students from last year.
"This year, I've noticed they're wanting and willing to bring up their grades and participate in extracurricular activities," she said.
"There's more politeness," Samantha added, "and there's not that much peer pressure."
"In my opinion," Nicole said, "the eighth-graders did get nicer, and I believe if they see one person being a leader, that others will want to join them."
"Hopefully," Jasmin said, "it grows to where everybody wants to help our school, show how good a school we have."