Connecting Columbia Union Seventh-day Adventists

Richmond Academy first- and second-graders hold The Leader in Me notebooks, alongside teacher Karen Van Ornam.

Richmond Academy Launches Leadership Program

Story by Tiffany Doss

At the beginning of the school year, staff and faculty at Richmond Academy (RA) in Virginia, adopted The Leader in Me program, which draws key components from the book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

This program teaches skills for academic success, such as critical thinking, goal setting, listening, speaking and self-directed learning.

“Each day, students spend time in their leadership notebooks and talk about how they can make every day count by being kind, following directions, obeying, listening and being safe,” says Karen Van Ornam, first- and second-grade teacher. “Students learn about habits that make a difference, like being proactive, beginning with the end in mind and nding your voice.” The program extends to all grades, with the goals and habits being similar in nature, but geared appropriately for each age group.

First- and second-graders have already applied, interviewed and been “hired” for their first job. One student was hired to lead the Pledge of Allegiance each morning. Another student scrubs scuffs off the walls each day—and has even hired a helper. Students are coming to teachers when they see a problem and asking if a position can be created for them, wanting to take on the responsibility. For many, this concept is unheard of, however, it’s becoming the norm at RA.

Van Ornam first discovered The Leader in Me program and brought it to Principal Nancy Melashenko, who then took a team of three teachers to visit another school where it was being implemented. “The results that we saw in the children’s development of values and the ownership of their educational process was amazing, and we knew that this program would align ideally with our mission and vision,” says Melashenko. “Now that we have launched the program, we are excited to see how our students are already stepping up.”

She continues, “Used as a structure for achieving academic goals, internalized Christian values and the development of leadership skills, we are confident that the long-term bene ts for our students will be great.”

Van Ornam and Melashenko agree that this leadership program has the potential to change the culture of a school and plan to implement it for the next three years. RA hopes to become a Lighthouse School, which indicates that a school has fully integrated
The Leader in Me curriculum and is achieving measurable results.

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