The Leadership Academy: Inroads to Success officially concluded this academic year in Atlanta Public Schools on April 5. The Global Peace Foundation coordinated the Leadership Academy in two different middle schools during the 2012-2013 academic year. Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School completed its second full year while Joseph Emerson Brown Middle School completed its pilot year which began in the summer of 2012. Each school held an awards ceremony to recognize the achievements of students in the challenging program.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School
King Middle School held its closing ceremony on Friday, May 29 with many parents and faculty hearing about the year’s events and the accomplishments of their children. Many in attendance, for example, didn’t know that the Leadership Academy was invited to attend a forum on urban innovators at the White House in August or about the eighth grade team’s video exchange with Kenyan students in October last year.
The sixth grade also received a special visit from international leaders in education from Ireland, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria and Uganda who attended the 2012 Global Peace Convention in Atlanta in November. Students also put their leadership into practice by organizing service projects for the Martin Luther King National Day of Service. Over 200 volunteers came out on that day, and many continued their service engagement during the 40 Days of Peace Initiative.
Former teacher and last year’s program liaison Ms. Denise Johnson testified how much these students have grown. She said she knew the graduating eighth grade class since their entry into the middle school and many other students since her work in the feeder elementary school. One highlight was a performance from Mr. Zayreton Slaton, music major at Georgia State University, who offered a congratulatory song for the students, an original inspired by the Leadership Academy.
Students also shared reflections and personal experiences with the program. Zyon Watkins, eighth grade, wrote a poem about what leadership means to him, relating each letter of the word to a meaningful phrase. Adrienne Knight, seventh grade, offered an appreciation to her facilitators for investing in them throughout the year. Principal Paul Brown offered congratulations after the awards were handed out and also shared how he witnessed changes among many of the students throughout the year.
Ms. Carlis Williams, regional administrator for the Administration for Children and Families, a major partner of the Leadership Academy, talked about the development of the program and mentioned how her department is not usually engaged as directly as they are with the Leadership Academy. Ms. Williams was really excited about the progress made in just three years.
Joseph Emerson Brown Middle School
One advance in the development of the Leadership Academy in 2012 is the program’s expansion into Brown Middle School, and on Friday, April 5, students at Brown held their awards ceremony. Students were welcomed by Ms. Carol Osborne, Director of Program Initiatives with the Administration for Children and Families, who shared about the origins of the program and partnership with Global Peace Foundation.
Benjamin Leverette, eighth grade, talked about how he was able to be more confident in speaking in a public setting through his involvement in the Leadership Academy. Alexis Wilcoxson and Aja Perry, eighth grade, spoke together about how comfortable and assured they were to be in a group who share the same goals. Tony McClarin, seventh grade, said he used to keep to himself, but his involvement in the Leadership Academy encouraged him to be more outgoing. He’s now volunteering as a tutor at his younger brother’s elementary school.
Dr. Walt Thompson, executive director of After School All Stars in Atlanta and associate dean of the School of Education at Georgia State University, encouraged all of the students to apply to Georgia State once they complete high school. Dr. Tony Devine, executive director of Leadin and vice-president of the Global Peace Foundation, shared about how this program is inspiring other initiatives around the world.
Mr. Donald Speaks, director of the Atlanta Promise Neighborhood in proximity to Brown Middle School, gave the main remarks at the ceremony. He talked about his regular interactions with young people and about the demands of leadership, saying, “Pigeons flock together all the time, but eagles fly alone.” He challenged the audience at the end of his talk with the question, “Are you a pigeon or are you an eagle?”
The college student facilitators shared about how much they changed through their involvement in the program. Ms. July Tran, soon-to-be student at Columbia University, said she would not be able to speak in front of the audience as she did that morning without her involvement in the Leadership Academy. Ms. Jezreél Amica, a freshman at Georgia State University, shared how her experience with the middle school students has been the most enjoyable experience she’s had with working with peers younger than her. This year was her first experience working with middle school students.
At the conclusion of the program, Ms. Joy Spann, originally a volunteer who became program coordinator of the Leadership Academy, shared from her personal experience, telling the students, “You don’t have to wait to make a difference. You can start now.” Noting the impact the volunteer experience had on university students, Mr. Lovell Lemons, director of the Office of Civic Engagement at Georgia State University, expressed eagerness to meet with those college students from his university who had participated to explore ways to expand student participation.