Written by Julia Hornyak |
Photos by Kelley Edwards, A’ric Jackson, and Mrs. Hagness |
On Thursday, November 5th, ten students from The Morgan School teamed up with Youth Leadership Motivational Speaker A’ric Jackson to teach at Sedgwick Middle School in West Hartford, Connecticut. These ten students included sophomores, juniors, and seniors who demonstrate leadership qualities not only in school but also in the community. These students were Juan Avila, Michael Baker, Gaby Bussiere, Burton Caldwell, Lindsay Harden, Julia Hornyak, Meghan Lindsay, Mike Murray, Wyatt Reu, and Andrew Tessman.
The students prepared for their day on the Tuesday before during E period. During this time, the students received a crash course on what was expected of them. A’ric had them take on roles as the facilitator and as the different types of kids they may encounter.They were all up for the challenge. Senior, Mike Murray, explains how it was “good to actually put the training to use because what is the use of training if it is never applied?” The students could prepare for hours, but they will never know what it would be like until they worked with the students at Sedgwick.
Principal Keri Hagness and Library Media Specialist Shannon Robinson joined the students on their trip to help supervise, but when the day began, the ten students had to be the teachers. The morning began with breakfast and refreshments kindly provided by the staff at Sedgwick Middle School. Next, the student leaders helped set up activities in the gym while Mr.Jackson gave his speech to the sixth graders, who sadly would not work with the leaders.
Before Jackson’s second speech, he thanked all the student leaders for being the guinea pigs for this experiment and explained how this is only the beginning of “The Leadership Experience.” Jackson explained his hopes that the idea of student leaders instilling others with leadership qualities would spread like wildfire, and the group would most likely make more appearances in the future. Kelley Edwards revealed how it was “an honor to be a part of A’ric’s dream and vision. It was so rewarding to witness the Morgan students as they experienced the day. I watched them shine, struggle, fight through it, and come out the other side with a whole new understanding of the impact they can have on others. I wish all teenagers understood how empowering they can be and then had the opportunity to do so. I think it’s our responsibility as adults to make those chances happen. The Morgan students made us all proud and exceeded our hopes for the day. It was a growing experience for us all, and I can’t wait to see it happen again!”
During the second speech which A’ric gave to the seventh graders, the student leaders waited in the overhead balcony until they received their cue to walk down. As each student leader was called up to the stage, the middle school students looked up at these role models with eager eyes. As soon as Sophomore Juan Avila walked on the stage, the students went crazy cheering for Juan whom they had never met before, acting as if he were some famous celebrity.
The students were then divided into two groups. Group A students went with Mr. Jackson to undergo activities to figure out what type of leader they were: director, thinker, relater, or socializer. Group B students remained in the auditorium with the student leaders. The students divided into their advisories and worked with one of the student leaders. This would continue for four sessions: two including seventh graders and the other two involving eighth graders.
While in each group, the student leaders had to not only get to know a group of students in a small amount of time, but they also had to keep the students’ attention. The first activity was the human knot to get their energy out and have the kids work as a team. The next activity, the kids had to work together and think of a famous actor/actress, singer, or athlete and figure out the steps it took that person from middle school on to get to where they are today.
Finally, the students made their own personal goals involving their dream jobs and explained their ten steps on how they will achieve their goals from that day forward. If there was time left over, the student leaders asked their group of students to explain one step they will start today in order to achieve their dreams. Senior Mike Baker, explained how “the day with A’ric was a learning experience. I typically stray from working with younger people such as middle schoolers, but connecting with them on a level where I could hear their own passions and desires was incredible.” The student leaders also used this time to get to know their students so that they will leave a lasting impression that would make a difference in the middle schoolers’ lives. Junior Lindsay Harden explains how “it definitely put things in perspective about how you have the skills to be a leader and then actually act them out. It was also very interesting to hear all of the kids’ goals and the way they responded to the activities.”
After many trials and errors, well-behaved groups and rambunctious groups, the student leaders were exhausted. Although it was a long day dealing with different types of kids, “it was a worthwhile experience to have a lasting impact on the middle schoolers. It also gave everyone a new respect for teachers” explained junior Burton Caldwell.
Sophomore Juan Avila described how his “experience with A’ric since day one has been the best. The things you learn with him are unbelievable, but then you take these ideas to another level and actually put to practice what you learn which is crazy. Just like A’ric said, he was throwing us into the fire. We took the opportunity and we were ourselves. You could tell from the moment we arrived at the school that we were going to inspire or connect with some of them. I know for sure I connected with a student who had the same goal as me but in a different sport. This student was very attentive to everything I said and although he may not have gone home and practiced more, watched videos, etc. I felt inspired by just being myself which was my greatest goal.”
Although Principal Keri Hagness had to leave early she expressed how the “experience was positive on so many levels. This field trip provided leadership opportunities for high schoolers to inspire middle schoolers. In our school, we tend to help out the freshmen and their transition into the school, but what if we started lower?” If we instill them with leadership qualities now, they will be more outgoing and inspired to get involved in high school. “Although it was challenging to be out of their comfort zone by talking to people they do not even know and having to deal with many different personalities, it caused the student leaders to do on the spot problem-solving which they handled well.”
Mrs. Hagness hopes that next year in the new school we can start a leadership seminar and have middle schools come to us. We will prepare classes and workshops on stress, goal setting, decision making and much more. Since this experience was the first, A’ric realized he can go beyond keynote speaking which he has never done before. This opens many more future opportunities for A’ric, Mrs. Hagness, and the students.