Students offer ideas for improving schools

From planting flowers to improving mascots, a group of local seventh graders shared on June 25 ideas to strengthen their school communities as part of a youth leadership program at Elon University. The audience? Administrators, parents, teachers – and the superintendent of Alamance County's public schools.

Thirty-seven students from Burlington Day School, Turrentine Middle School, Graham Middle School and Hawfields Middle School met for the Alamance Youth Leadership Academy this week at Elon University.
Organizers of the 6th annual Alamance Youth Leadership Academy said the program broadens students’ understanding of leadership skills like team building and problem solving, while exploring character traits of a good leader.

Thirty-seven students from Burlington Day School, Turrentine Middle School, Graham Middle School and Hawfields Middle School met for the AYLA program.

Rex Waters, associate dean of students and director of Elon’s Leadership Fellows program, supervised student facilitators from Elon University, Alamance Community College and local high schools.

“The summer program is an integral part to the AYLA’s vision, which ensures engagement and opportunities for students to make a difference for the common good in their school’s community,” Waters said. Students participated in character building activities, a trip to the Elon Lodge and Ropes Course, and leadership seminars.

As a capstone, students from each school developed three proposals for what they want to improve in their school communities. Waters said that during their next two years in middle school, the students will work with faculty and school leaders to implement change.

Ideas ranged from Burlington Day School’s plan to improve electives and offer more interesting ones from previous semesters, to Turrentine Middle School’s concept of having its art teacher paint murals on the hallway and cafeteria walls to make the school more attractive and interesting.

Other unique ideas included:

• Providing nutrition facts on table tents at lunch and on school Web sites
• Enriching academic activities through more field trips
• Offering clubs and creating a student/teacher organization
• Increasing school spirit by getting new athletics uniforms and improving school mascots
• Planting more flowers and trees on the school campus

Randy Bridges, superintendent of the Alamance-Burlington School System, said the AYLA’s most important quality is its ability to produce community interest in the youth.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for our youth to talk about leadership,” Bridges said. The changes that the students want to implement “give us some things to think about.”

He said he hopes to add more students and schools to the AYLA in the coming years.

– Written by Ashley Barnas ’10