The cutting-edge program was written and developed by Sheena Newman, who heads the Office of Instruction and is supervisor of Elementary Education for the Bradley County School System. Sheena and a cast of student leaders explained the new program with an eye-popping presentation that included video, singing and various skits by students and teachers.
The “Leaders for Life” program is centered around the principles of sailing and involves students at all grade levels from pre-K to graduation. The curriculum sends students on a voyage to the land of success as they board the “S.S. Leader Ship.”
The journey begins by teaching the students that they are the captain of their ship and responsible for charting their course (goal setting). The students learn they must set sail (take action) and frequently check their compass (stay on course). Many other principles of sailing come into play such as being “shipshape” or staying healthy by avoiding drugs and alcohol. Being a good crewmate (teamwork) and lending a hand (community service) are also signs of a leader. The student also learns the importance of persevering through storms which involves problem-solving and character development.
A part of the presentation that caught my attention was the emphasis on students preparing themselves for life in a complicated world after graduation. There is a focus on developing the skills an employee must have … and which are demanded by the business and manufacturing community in today’s highly competitive marketplace.
A recent report by Nick Schulz in the Wall Street Journal suggests that a properly prepared student should not have a problem finding a job. Schulz surveyed representatives from several major American manufacturing companies who told him how hard it is to find qualified applicants.
Sadly, the majority of the company reps spoke of how difficult it is to find a prospective employee who can pass a drug test. They said applicants were often so underqualified that finding someone with the basic skills needed to properly answer a telephone is a challenge. Schulz said that many of the company reps said they would be happy to find job applicants with the kind of “soft” skills that we used to take for granted. They mentioned the proper use of simple grammar, interpersonal skills and enthusiasm/motivation.
These problems are not isolated to major international corporations. I can assure you ... employers in Bradley County face the same problems. That’s why I was very encouraged to learn about the Leaders for Life program in Bradley County Schools. Sheena Newman, with the support and encouragement of Director of Schools Johnny McDaniel, is working to empower our students to take control of their future … and also the future of Bradley County.
The Leaders for Life program is teaching students to be independent thinkers, to take responsibility, to be self-motivated and how to work as a team. They are also learning valuable communication skills and developing a set of values based on honesty and integrity.
The program is still in its infancy, but Mrs. Newman says it is already showing results, even at the pre-K and first-grade levels. Students are showing initiative, setting goals and making plans for their future.
Education is the prerequisite for opportunity and success, and is critically important for any community seeking new industry and economic development. A skilled and trained workforce may be the most important investment we can make as a community. I want to thank Sheena and Johnny for taking the lead in this team effort to ensure Bradley County’s future.
I also want to congratulate Johnny for being selected as Tennessee Superintendent of the Year for 2013. This is a great honor and is indicative of the outstanding leadership we have in both the Bradley County and Cleveland City schools systems.
Thanks to each of you for all that you do. You are a primary reason that Bradley County is Tennessee at its best.