The first year of the GPFF’s Atlanta-based Leadership Academy, a character education pilot program at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School, concluded on May 9, 2012 with an event honoring participants, college student facilitators, and other stakeholders.
Dr. Michael McKnight, principal of ML King Jr. Middle School, congratulated participants and recalled the events on Martin Luther King Day of Service this past January. “To get there that morning, to see our students, community leaders, business partners, all stakeholders involved, that was a wonderful thing to see. I truly believe that the dream that Martin Luther King had was coming true through our students.”
Ms. Carol Osborne, Director of Program Initiatives with the Administration for Children and Families, called on Leadership Academy participants to “be role models [who] showcase positive academics and life values that will empower other young people to achieve great things in middle school, high school, college and in life.”
“Leadership has nothing to do with age. It has nothing to do with your position,” added Dr. Tony Devine, Executive Director of LeadIn, a Global Peace Festival Foundation (GPFF) initiative. “It has everything to do with your creativity and your passion to make a positive difference in the lives of others.”
Tony Devine Executive Director of LeadIn, and Jailyn Savage, a Leadership Academy student.
Mr. Solomon Brannan, director of the NFL Players Association Atlanta chapter, encouraged the young participants to stand up for the principles they believe in, and a representative from Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s office, Ms. Amy Phuong, asked youth to “imagine big and think boldly as to what you will achieve, who will you want to become and how will you help change our world.”
Students and facilitators also shared their experiences. College student facilitator Joy Spann said that college students also became better leaders through engaging with participants. She said that she learned just as much working with the participants as they learned from the facilitators.
Sixth-grade student Jailyn Savage said her involvement in the program made her more confident. Seventh graderJonathan Pacheco said he developed better communication and listening skills. And Tallion Griggs, an eighth grade representative, said that through his participation in the program he gained skills that will help him in high school.
All participants in the Leadership Academy were commended for their commitment to the program, and certificates were awarded to those who attended a majority of sessions.
“For my eighth graders, a word of advice,” said Mr. Levi Dickerson, a facilitator and local performer. “No one has to tell a seed to become a tree. It already knows what it has to do when it starts. It’s not a seed trying to become a tree, but it’s a tree in seed form. You are not kids trying to be leaders, but are leaders who are going to take high school by storm. So, I say to you, dream like you live forever and live like today’s your last.”
Program organizers said the Leadership Academy will be adding a social impact component in year two and will also expand to Brown Middle school and the Atlanta Promise Neighborhood.
*The Global Peace Festival Foundation (GPFF) was renamed Global Peace Foundation (GPF) in November, 2012