Leading to success

New program hopes to create leadership potential in all students


Photo by Peyton Sims

Physics teacher Seth Schrimer discusses Leader in Me with students. Senior Julia Whitehorn implemented the program as a part of her independent research project.

Story by Peyton Sims, culture editor

A new leadership program implemented this year is expected to help create a more positive environment throughout the school.

Leader in Me, a program based on Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” addresses the areas of academics, culture and leadership by empowering students to be more responsible for their learning and school environment.

“Leader in Me’s goal is to show that every person is a leader, and they don’t have to be in a particular organization to be a leader,” Assistant Principal Julius Anderson said. “We want to change the culture at the high school and get kids to realize that everyone has the potential to do something great.”

Inspiration to begin the program came from senior Julia Whitehorn’s independent research project last year.

“I was looking for a project and remembered being at the elementary schools and them having Leader in Me. I thought it was working really well, so I thought ‘Why don’t we offer that at the high school?’” Whitehorn said. “I proposed my idea to [Principal Carla] Dupree to see if it would be OK, and she was actually already considering [it].They ended up implementing it for this spring, which was a lot quicker than I had anticipated.”

Anderson, who oversees the program, works with a student lead team of 30 to begin implementation.

“Everyone has genius, and sometimes hearing it from teachers or adults doesn’t sit well with you,” Anderson said. “That’s why maybe hearing it from your peers and having your peers put you in a position of leadership is something that will change the culture of our campus.”

Whitehorn, who is a member of the lead team, said they have set goals for the program with hopes of seeing considerable results in the next three years. The lead team’s current focus is to initiate changes at the school by using the seven habits vocabulary and to figure out how the program will be structured and when lessons will be taught.

“We want to be able to know when we are going to do the Leader in Me lessons to teach students interesting ways they can use the seven habits in a job, in the school place, in relationships with other people, and how they see themselves,” Whitehorn said. “By the end of the year, hopefully, we will see a few changes in the school culture. And over the next three years we will gradually see more changes in academics and in school culture and also in leadership.”

Currently, about 30 students have been identified for Leader in Me, which differs from other school leadership programs by focusing more on the individual.

“Leader in Me teaches us how to be a leader, not just in school, but in ourselves, like how to make ourselves feel confident, and how to improve in like class work,” senior Tarren Engle said. “We can teach you how to be a good person to yourself and to others and how to respect other people. I think that’s really an important thing to learn.”

Engle said one of the first things they did was make the seven habit’s paradigms visible on campus with signs in the hallways and courtyards and made a list of things they hoped to change.

“We wrote down what we wanted to see improved and how we would go along with it and see how that could actually happen,” Engle said. “Instead of just saying it, we made a plan as to how to achieve that.”

Those in the program hope to see others get involved as well.

“I like the people in Leader in Me a lot, I think it’s going to be a great group of people with great chemistry,” junior Graci Henard said. “We plan to do something during school where every student is involved and ask questions about themselves to self-reflect.”

Engle said she is looking forward to the changes the program will bring.

“[I’m most excited] to see how it improves our school, like the bullying rate to go down a lot. I think that would be really cool,” Engle said. “And even when I’m out next year to go to college, I think it’d be really cool to see it still improves our school.”

Whitehorn said other schools have seen improvements in attendance and overall student attitudes toward school.

“[Leader in Me] makes students want to come to school,” Whitehorn said. “When students enjoy school, they want to come to school. They want to be here, they feel responsible for their education. Leader in Me helps change the school culture into a positive atmosphere where students want to learn.”

To reinforce this change, Anderson’s role as principal was modified to focus on positive behavioral support.

“It’s easy to get lost in the mix of the 1,800 kids here,” Anderson said. “Our goal is to have kids realize that the school is an inviting place and that everyone should want to treat it just like their own home.”

Anderson said his main objective is to be in classrooms and to make sure that the relationships between the students and the teachers is going in a positive direction, which corresponds to the Leader in Me objectives.

“Instead of kids seeing me always as someone that comes in the room to get someone for something they’ve done wrong, my role now is to come in and form a partnership and to work on what the kids are doing positive in class and give them some kind of kudos for that,” Anderson said. “Maybe they’ll see that it’s OK to lead in the classroom and do things positive, and that will correlate to what Leader in Me is trying to do.”

Schools who have implemented the program have seen considerable results, Whitehorn said. She hopes Texas High will follow that trend.

“I really think this could be a great thing for Texas High,” Whitehorn said. “We just have to have people who really buy into it and who want to see a change get involved and be active in Leader in Me because this can be a positive thing. There have been huge success stories with Leader in Me. I hope that Texas High can be one of those great success stories.”