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Let Me Show You the Leader in Me

Students Educate Visitors on Program’s Principles

First-grader Freddy Williams grasped a visitor’s hand firmly and gave it two quick shakes, maintained eye contact, and welcomed her to his Stoney Creek Elementary classroom.

Across the hall, Carter Cobb explained his classroom’s goals for the year to guests who included Superintendent Ethan Ebenstein and Missi McPherson, educational support services coordinator and homeless liaison, as well as parent volunteers and a high school student interested in becoming a teacher.

Leaders Start Early

More on Comstock Park’s Leader in Me program:

“Our goals are to be able to count to 120, to read for 20 minutes and to get to reading level J (for juvenile),” Carter told them.

All around the K-2 building, students were showing administrators, volunteers and community members how their participation in The Leader in Me program has made an impact.

Activities included student-guided tours; classroom visits; a panel discussion with teachers, parents and students; and a student expo to explain the 7 Habits that serve as the focal point for the program.

The Leader in Me is a whole-school transformation model developed by Steven Covey and based on seven habits of leadership. Pine Island and Stoney Creek elementaries received a five-year grant from the I Am A Leader Foundation to implement the program. The model has been adopted by four district schools so far.

“The main thing we wanted to spotlight is the growth and achievement we’ve seen in less than a year of implementing it,” Principal Jason Rykse said. “This year we focused on ways we have created an environment and a culture that encourages leadership, and gets students to see how they can display the 7 Habits.”

Second-grader Terrence Hawkins, left, explains how he uses the 7 Habits at home while Charlotte Haney waits her turn on the panel discussion

Show and Tell

Violet Holmes shared Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw.

“That means to exercise, get enough sleep and eat healthy so you can take care of yourself and others,” the second-grader said from memory.

And does she always get enough sleep?

Yep, she indicated with a nod.


Violet reconsidered: “Maybe not at sleepovers.”

Playground aide and parent Jennifer Barnhardt said she’s seen a lot of evidence of the 7 Habits at work on the monkey bars, swings and slides.

“Whenever there are issues and they don’t remember to use it themselves, we remind them, how can they all win?” Barnhardt said. “Just that little reminder is all they need.”

She said her typically shy son is now “getting up in front of people and speaking” since being a part of the program. “Just seeing the maturity in him, I know it has come from the 7 Habits.”

Rykse said next year Stoney Creek will begin to look at implementing more of the academic elements of the program, “though you can already see that some of our staff have already really run with it,” Rykse said. “Next year it will be more intentional.”


The Leader in Me

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Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a reporter and copy editor, covering East Grand Rapids, Forest Hills and Northview. She is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio or email Morgan.


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