Improving School Climate: Jostens’ Hot New Way to Utilize Leadership

Photo Credit: Lindsay Wright

On November 13, several EHHS students tested their leadership skills on a field trip to Morgan High School in Clinton for the Jostens’ Renaissance Leadership Program. While there, they were involved in many activities that can inspire change in our own school climate.

EHHS Discovers the Jostens’ Program

Mrs. Lisa Gardner and Mrs. Lindsay Wright first heard the news about this leadership program through our Jostens’ representative, who also helps us with yearbooks. The program promotes creating a healthy and dedicated school climate. The two women organized a field trip alongside Jostens and Morgan High School, inviting the students they deemed as the leaders of our school. Sports captains, club leaders, and class officers alike were invited to come on this trip to collaborate with other leaders from other schools, like Morgan High School and Norwich Free Academy.

Looking for Leadership with Morgan High School

On arrival, our leaders were greeted by the host Morgan students. They settled in the auditorium and then the students were told to come up on stage and put on fabric blindfolds. They were asked questions like, “If you are more likely to ask questions in class, take a step to the right. If you keep your questions to yourself, take a step to the left.”, or “Are you a visual learner? If so, step back.” The series of questions led the students to stumble around blindly on stage and divide into four rough quadrants. Each group was deemed a name such as the “Socializers”, “Thinkers”, “Directors”, or “Relaters”. The personality test helped students realize what kind of leader they are or seem to be. In the designated personality groups, the students created posters based on our described characteristics.

Photo Credit: Lindsay Wright

Advice from a Principal

Next, the students were given an inspirational speech by Julie Diaz, a retired Principal who turned a hot mess high school into a district-wide model with her leadership. Travis High School was known for being a wreck: excessive tardies and absences, dirty classrooms and bathrooms, bullying, and an unbelievable 3,067 referrals given in the past year compared to its 2,400 students. Diaz was nervous to take the on the role as principal, however, with time and a lot of careful strategies, she was able to turn it around. She led a “Paint the School Day” to not only get student’s trust but also to update the drab walls. Diaz also handed out gift cards in the hallway for good behavior, which really had an impact on the students’ actions. She got a group of students together to set the example, and this became their leadership group. Diaz and the students from Travis High School did so much work to better themselves that within a couple of years, they were the best high school in the district out of twelve high schools. Though she has since retired, Diaz still travels around the country telling the miraculous story of Travis High School, showing that anything is possible with the right amount of effort.

Morgan Leaders’ Legacy

The Morgan students presented their Legacy Projects, in which they were expected to find a target to either improve or add something to their school. There were ideas such as a Captain’s Council, where the team captains of every sport meet with their Athletic Director to discuss ways to make Morgan sports better. There was also a Welcoming Committee created through the Legacy Projects, in which new students were given welcome bags with Morgan merchandise and one free tardy pass that would excuse the new students from being late. But the one that stood out most was Senior Emma Iovene’s Legacy Project, Morgan Goes Green. Emma’s initiative for the project was to reduce waste in the school by introducing reusable lunch trays to the school cafeteria. “I had some drawbacks, I had to meet with our superintendent, our food director, and I had to talk to our principal about it. It took probably five months to actually get started”. Though Emma’s project was slow to start, she was able to achieve her goal to get reusable trays introduced into the lunchroom; they are up to three days a week as of current, and on off days, they use biodegradable paper trays. Since Emma’s is a senior, she will not be able to continue her project in the following years, however, she hopes to pass the project down to a freshman she has taken under her wing. Emma believes that many of the projects have been beneficial for Morgan’s school climate, and though their climate still has flaws, she feels that these Legacy Projects will move the school in the right direction.

Photo Credit: Lindsay Wright