On June 3, the staff at Grace Place for Children and Families met to reflect on The Leader in Me insights gathered over the past school year and to discuss plans to implement those discoveries in the fall and beyond. The Leader in Me is a Franklin Covey program that follows a whole-school transformation model to empower students with the skills they need to thrive in the 21st century.

Grace Place first embarked on the Leader in Me journey in January 2015 as part of a student enrichment and staff development initiative. Since then, representatives from the organization have visited “Lighthouse” model schools for the Leader in Me program and trainers from Franklin Covey have come out to the campus to discuss best practices for implementing the material within the curriculum and throughout the entire campus.

In addition to students in the School Age program, even two to four year olds at Grace Place benefit from learning leadership skills. In Bright Beginnings, where parents and their young children take courses together to prepare for pre-literacy and kindergarten readiness, a student leader is selected each day. They wear The Leader in Me class apron, and they help lead their group the entire day. A three-year-old student in Bright Beginnings, José, went to school one day this year wearing a plastic Olympic medallion necklace. His mom learned about The Leader in Me philosophy in her Beginnings 101 class, and she decided to try it out at home. Much to her delight, he embraced it wholeheartedly. José shared with his teacher that his mom gave him the medal for being a good leader at home by helping with simple chores. He brought the medal to school to show everyone how he was a leader at home and asked if he could be the leader of the day!

“So far, The Leader in Me program has improved our entire climate. We have seen improvement with student initiative, participation and behavior,” says Director of School Age programs at Grace Place, Tom Powers. “Our hope is that ‘7 Habits Thinking’ becomes pervasive, and that our staff, students, volunteers – and even our campus – will reflect the learning that happens at Grace Place.”

Students and parents within the Academy of Leaders program at Grace Place met for their first The Leader in Me retreat at FGCU in December. Participants worked with Franklin Covey facilitators to explore ways to integrate leadership and effective life habits into their everyday lives. 

In addition to visiting Veteran’s Memorial Elementary in February for its Leadership Day, a special event hosted by model programs, Grace Place staff also checked out Neil Armstrong Elementary School (NAES) last month. NAES’ current ranking as the 17th Franklin Covey Lighthouse School in the world is evident everywhere you look around the campus. Student greeters welcome guests and lead tours of their school and programs. The environments at both schools are not only designed to promote The Leader in Me culture, they also highlight student achievement and creativity.   

Beyond aspiring to be a “Lighthouse” model site someday, Grace Place has become a trusted Leader in Me resource within the community. In fact, Golden Gate Elementary has recently become interested in The Leader in Me program after speaking with Grace Place CEO and trained 7 Habits facilitator, Dr. Tim Ferguson, and accompanying Grace Place staff members on their visit to Neal Armstrong Elementary School.

Our belief as an educational nonprofit serving children and families in Golden Gate, leadership development is an essential life skill in supporting our students and their families in moving out of poverty through increased knowledge and education. Reaching out and supporting our school partners will deepen and further enhance our work with the 7 Habits and The Leader in Me initiative happening at Grace Place.

Through the comprehensive approach to working with children and families focused on increasing family literacy, Grace Place is making an impact toward breaking the cycle of poverty in the Golden Gate community.