Program at Cypress Elementary trains student leaders to assist their peers

Cypress Elementary counselor Amy Allen chats with kindergarten student Alan Brietenstine while cLic leaders hand out Kindness candy grams on Valentine’s Day.
Cypress Elementary counselor Amy Allen chats with kindergarten student Alan Brietenstine while cLic leaders hand out Kindness candy grams on Valentine’s Day.
Published Feb. 22, 2017

NEW PORT RICHEY — If Amy Allen, the counselor at Cypress Elementary School, has it her way, every student at the school will feel welcome, thanks to something called cLic.

The cLic (creating Leaders and intentional culture) program is the brainchild of Allen and her husband, Daniel, a high school teacher, Minnesota natives who brought the cLic concept to Tampa Bay schools.

"Our goal is to pair up every student with a cLic-trained student leader, especially incoming sixth-graders and ninth-graders at the middle and high school levels," said Allen, who noted that the cLic program recently was presented at the National College Football Extra Yard for Teachers Summit in Tampa. "(It is) someone to whom they can go when they're struggling with any student issue they may be facing and are not necessarily comfortable connecting to adults. We have pillars of character education that are vital to not only school success, but life success."

Allen currently runs three student leadership groups at Cypress, which boast a combined membership of 43 boys and girls. Students apply to be cLic leaders, and also are referred to the program through teacher recommendations.

"We want to teach these kids to be somebody's light," she said.

The cLic student leaders supply this light at the school in a variety of ways. Whether tutoring a student who needs academic help or mentoring bullied pupils or befriending students eating alone in the cafeteria, cLic students aim to ensure that none of their classmates feel isolated or neglected.

"Nobody sits alone," said Allen. "We might be dealing with a student who is living in a car or tent, or who has a learning disability. They may think nobody wants them and have little human contact. But to us, they're important."

This message hits home with cLic student leaders.

"If I help somebody have a better day, then I feel like I'm helping," said Jaxson Allen, 11. "I want to make them feel like they have a friend."

"It's about doing nice stuff for the benefit of other people," said Kyler Wiltshire, an 11-year-old fifth-grader. "This helps us be better people."

The group also undertakes a number of special projects throughout the school year. Emphasizing a group focus on girl power and female empowerment, the group recently hosted a slumber party for female members, one that featured presentations from a female lawyer and government official.

"We want to teach the girls to be anything they want," said Allen. "Nobody can hold them back."

And according to the girls of cLic, the message is received.

"Girls can do anything," said Savannah Stahl, a 10-year-old fifth-grader. "You just have to take courage and be yourself."

"Girls should just be the way they are," said Mikayla Iannone, an 11-year-old fifth-grader. "It's good not to let people judge you."

Riley Morgan, a 10-year-old fifth-grader and student tutor, said that her cLic experience has helped empower her to pursue a teaching career.

Holidays and school events are also part of the cLic program. On Valentine's Day, members passed out Kindness candy grams to students as part of a fundraising campaign to facilitate the participation of needy students in a Busch Gardens field trip.

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By purchasing I Pick You grams to give to friends, teachers and family members, students raised $280 for this effort.

"When I gave out the grams, I knew I made someone feel happy," said Owen Lucas, an 11-year-old fifth-grader. "I felt like I did something right."

The cLic students also help out at Student of the Month celebrations and made ornaments at Christmastime that were personally delivered to a nursing home.

"Some of the residents never have anyone visit them," said Jaxson. "It made them so happy."

In Allen's view, the outreach and impact of cLic only stands to grow.

"I want to see cLic in every school," she said.