Jasper City Schools have really been turning heads lately. In 2010, the school district launched a new program called The Leader in Me at T.R. Simmons Elementary, designed to empower students and unleash each child’s full potential.
The Leader in Me
The innovative, nationwide program is based on principles found in Stephen Covey’s best-selling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Since its implementation, T.R. Simmons Elementary has been visited by Reps. Robert Aderholt and Bill Roberts and former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court Drayton Nabers.
“The concept is every child has leadership ability, worth and value,” says Dr. Robert Sparkman, superintendent of Jasper City Schools. “Our educators are helping them find it by helping them understand Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”
Those seven habits include (1) Be proactive, (2) Begin with the end in mind, (3) Put first things first, (4) Think win-win, (5) Seek first to understand, then to be understood, (6) Synergize and (7) Sharpen the saw. Jasper City Schools plans to launch the program in its other two elementary schools, Memorial Park Elementary and West Jasper Elementary, in the next couple of years.
More than 600 schools throughout the nation are using The Leader in Me program, and have seen declines in their dropout rates, fewer tardy students and more parental involvement.
“Business people often struggle to find adults who come to work on time, have a good work ethic, and look you in the eye and shake your hand,” Sparkman says. “Ultimately we want students to graduate with intellect, but also character. I tell students all the time if you are blessed with academic ability but only use it for yourself, it is selfish. But if you use it to help another person, everybody wins. We want our students to serve others and keep the end in mind.”
Jasper City Schools partners with civic clubs in the community to help students learn what it means to serve and be a leader.
“When students graduate from Walker High School, they’ve put in many hours of service,” Sparkman says. “The greatest enjoyment I get is watching our students excel. I love seeing them working out in the community, whether they are ringing a bell for the Salvation Army, performing in a choral group or band, competing on the math team, or playing on our baseball team. It’s wonderful to see students enjoy the benefits of their education.”
Youth Leadership Walker County
Another Walker County program helping to shape future leaders is Youth Leadership Walker County, developed by the Chamber of Commerce of Walker County and Bevill State Community College. Each year, 40 high school juniors are selected from city, county and private high schools in Walker County to participate in the eight-month program. Participants meet once a month to hear from community leaders on various topics, including economics, health care and criminal justice. They also travel to local hospitals, courtrooms and the state legislature in Montgomery to experience firsthand how their community operates.
“The Chamber of Commerce of Walker County and Bevill State Community College are dedicated to education and will continue to develop programs that support our community’s students, educators and schools,” says Linda Lewis, president of the Chamber of Commerce of Walker County. “Each of us seeks to meet the demands of our future through an education process designed to improve knowledge, communications, interaction and awareness. Youth Leadership Walker County is one more way in which the chamber, educational institutions and alumni are working together.”
Youth Leadership Walker County is free to participants and funded by the chamber. Students interested in applying must have a C average or above and can obtain an application from their high school counselor or the chamber.
Check out more on education in Jasper, AL.