These students are leading by example | SierraSun.com

These students are leading by example

Tim Hauserman
On Education

When it comes to our local schools, parents and the community tend to focus on making students work, doing well in academics and staying out of trouble.

Have we become such old farts that we forget that school is also about having fun?

One way that kids in high school can combine doing something good for their school and the community ” and also have a lot of fun ” is by participating in their high school leadership class.

Both North Tahoe and Tahoe Truckee high schools have leadership classes. In fact, the two schools have a friendly competition about to begin to see who can bring in the most food for the hungry in a canned food drive.

Truckee’s leadership class is taught by Kurt Smart and North Tahoe’s leadership class is led by Bridget Paul. Paul is excited because leadership class was a big part of her own high school experience.

“It was what made me always look forward to school” she says.

North Tahoe’s leadership class goal is to serve the needs of the students, and have the students decide what projects to take on. Some of the students in the class are school officers, but many others are just kids who want to help out. The class is a mix of Spanish- and English-speaking students working together, and has grown from 18 to 32 students as the semester has progressed.

The students are running a recycling project, and sending out birthday cards to every student and staff member in the school. They have put together all the homecoming events, as well as two dances and a Halloween rally. In the springtime they hope to organize a donkey basketball game, put together some sort of multicultural event and present a drug awareness class with a special speaker.

The leadership class is assisting with the Ski Swap (to be held on Nov. 11″ don’t miss it). Once the swap has been completed, the students throughout the school will vote on where the proceeds should be spent at the school.

The class is also involved in assisting with the rebuilding of the school. They are going to contact local businesses and ask for help in procuring picnic benches for students to use in the outdoor patio area that will open up this spring. They also plan to place a time capsule on the campus of the new school, to be opened up by another leadership class down the road.

“Students are so positive that we have been able to work on positive activities so far this year,” Paul says. “I am not sure if everyone realizes what a great group of kids we have here. I used to work in Bay Area schools and hated chaperoning dances because the behavior of the kids was disgusting. I have chaperoned four dances here at North Tahoe and the kids behavior has been fantastic.”

One overriding goal for the students at North Tahoe High School was to present activities that make every child in the school feel good at least once during the year. Most importantly, leadership class has led to students wearing funny costumes and getting outside their comfort zone ” kind of like real life.

“Everybody puts in a lot of work and there are a lot of dedicated people in the leadership class,” says junior Caitlyn King, a leadership class student. “And it’s a lot of fun.”

Sierra Barter, a freshman, says “Leadership is great. We get up early in the morning and laugh with Ms. Paul and at the same time we learn great skills that help us in everything from teacher appreciation to organizing big events.”

An education should be a well-rounded experience. A prime focus is giving children the academic foundation for life or for going on to college. But high school should be about interacting with fellow students and the community as well. Taking a leadership class may be something to put on a college application, or might just be fun, but it also can help you become a better member of your community.

These local leadership students are learning how to put on a fundraising event for a good cause and work together as a team. They are learning about the importance of volunteers to a small town (or any town for that matter). They are learning that it is true that it only takes a few hard-working people to change things and make positive things occur.

Most science and math teachers would probably disagree with me, but students probably learn more of what they really need to know for life in leadership classes, rather than in science or math classes.

Tim Hauserman writes this column once a month. His book, “Monsters in the Woods: Backpacking with Children” will be published by University of Nevada Press in the spring of 2007.