Winchester Thurston's Middle Schoolers explore fundamental questions of leadership-What is leadership? What are the responsibilities of a good leader? How do you become a leader?-through the Leadership Academy, a comprehensive approach to developing leadership skills built upon the philosophy that leadership begins with character.
The Leadership Academy grew out of an outdoor education program focused on team building, self-reliance, and self-awareness, called Leadership Lab, begun in 2005. At its core were experiential challenge and training activities specifically built around the needs and strengths of Middle Schoolers. It challenged students push their boundaries, both physically and mentally.
Today, thanks to the creation of the Robert and Megan Glimcher Leadership Fund, these experiences have been enriched with the addition of student-driven community service designed to effect change. The expanded program is truly an integral part of the Middle School experience.
Each grade level chooses a community service project tied to a specific cause about which they are passionate, and, with guidance from faculty advisors, develops the project throughout the year.
Leadership Academy in Action
Sixth Grade: Adopted Animal Friends, collecting supplies, conducting site visits, and putting on a talent show to raise money that was donated to the organization.
Seventh Grade: Partnered with the Fundraising and Volunteer Departments of Children's Hospital. Forming small groups, the students collected supplies, books, games, and puzzles for the hospital's Caring Carts; created bound poetry books; and donated $1,600 raised through a silent auction. Other seventh-graders delivered materials to patients at the hospital, cleaned the toy room, and did window painting.
Eighth-grade: Taught language skills, as well as life skills such as hygiene and cooking, to 11 adults and 15 children of Prospect Park, a group of resettled African refugees now living in the Baldwin section of Pittsburgh.
At the beginning of each new school year, each grade level will have the chance to choose a new cause, or follow through with an established one. In any case, this hands-on approach to building leadership through character is-and is sure to be for a long time to come-a cornerstone of the WT Middle School experience.