On the first day of their new leadership program, Rochelle Middle School students learned the first rule of leadership: lead.
“Stay in your own lane. Do not follow others. Be your own person. Think for yourself.” Eighth-grade student Jacques White Wooten shared what he learned from Thursday’s opening class of the year-long leadership initiative and the book it’s built around, “The Energy Bus”.
“I want to be a good leader for the lower classes. I want to be a good role model,” Jacques said.
“We want the kids to realize that there’s a leader in every one of them,” Rochelle manager Terry Wooten said. “They just need to find their niche.”
Community leaders like NAACP Local Chapter President Barbara Sutton and Kinston Councilman Chris Suggs, LCPS District Administrators Felicia Solomon and Christel Carlyle, and a group of educators, counselors helped them in this exploration. Thursday – as they will do every month throughout the school year. and mental health specialists from the school district, Rochelle and Kinston High.
A total of 20 facilitators have signed up to speak on “The Energy Bus” and its leadership lessons with all the students of Rochelle. Bringing young teens together with adult leaders, most of them from outside of school, is part of a three-pronged program made possible by an $80,000 grant Rochelle won last spring from North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.
“The purpose of the grant is to promote leadership in our students, in our teachers and in our administrative team,” Wooten said Thursday. “This part of animator day is for students and teachers and also connects with the community.”
Through the program, Rochelle teachers and staff will also hear from educational consultants like Horacio Sanchez, an authority on the impact of poverty on learning. School administrators benefit from the program, Wooten said, by exercising the leadership skills needed to bring the program together. “They spearhead the vision I have as administrative leaders,” the director said.
“I love the concept,” said Carlyle, a Rochelle alumnus who is director of secondary education for LCPS. “I think it will be powerful.”
The book study format literally puts the whole school on the same page as they review and discuss the “Ten Rules for Fueling Your Life-Work Team and Positive Energy,” as laid out by the author Jon Gordon.
The most repeated rule of Thursday: you are the driver of your own bus.
“The whole energy bus is a metaphor for being positive in life and figuring out how you react to bad things that are going to happen — because that’s life,” Carlyle said.
“Students realize how it takes a leader to have an impact in the classroom — to achieve your goals, to focus on your work — it takes those qualities of a leader to be successful,” Wooten said. “If you approach this at this age, the hope is that it will continue to internalize all of their training, all of their experiences, so that as they get older they will become productive citizens in their community, in their work and as parents. . .”