Young leaders: Partnership with Newlin Elementary students fosters leadership

Elon students in the Foundations of Leadership class have worked together with local elementary students this spring to brainstorm a project to showcase student experiences at Newlin Elementary.

Leadership starts early at Harvey R. Newlin Elementary School in Burlington, N.C., where students learn leadership habits through the Leader in Me Program.

Students from Harvey Newlin Elementary interact with Elon students in the Foundations of Leadership service-learning class. 

Newlin Elementary school students recently met with Elon’s Foundations of Leadership Studies class on campus to brainstorm ideas for a project to best tell Newlin’s story, and how the university can help them in the process.

Elon and Newlin have a long-standing partnership, with Elon undergraduates from majors such as education and psychology often coming to the school for various projects, Newlin Vice Principal Rickeya Jones says. Students enrolled in the Foundations of Leadership Studies class have been volunteering at the elementary school as teacher assistants in classrooms, in the main office and anywhere else they are needed. The class is one of 50 academic service-learning classes offered by Elon this year.

Three years ago, Newlin implemented the Leader in Me program, a school improvement model that fosters leadership practices and habits in students. Leader in Me teaches students that leadership comes in different forms and everyone can benefit from these skills.

“I think it’s important for our students to see that the kid that’s the outspoken one in the classroom that they’re just as much of a leader as the person who’s quiet and shy,” Jones says.

Elon students will eventually help Newlin showcase a project that shows who the students are and where they come from.

“We’re brainstorming with the students about how to best tell their story and if the end result ends up that they want to prepare a present a rap, then we’re just going to help facilitate that. If they want a pamphlet, we could produce that could be in Spanish and in English to share with the families,” says Leslie Blank, the instructor for Foundations of Leadership. “Today is to hear from them, put those ideas together, and then turn them into something.”

Leslie Blank, who instructs the Foundations of Leadership class, talks with students during the recent brainstorming session on Elon’s campus. 

​The recent brainstorming session also offered Elon and Newlin Students the chance to talk about leadership and how they see themselves as effective leaders.

“We’re working on leadership and how we can get that right and how leadership will improve through all throughout your year,” Ja’Niya Adams, a third-grade student at Newlin, says. “Leadership will still be in your life even when you graduate.”

Their final project will most likely culminate into something that can be shown at a school assembly. Jones says that Newlin’s story is helping students turn their challenges into leadership.

“Our story is that our students come to us with many struggles but through those struggles our students are leaders and all they’re looking for is the empowerment,” Jones says.

Through their partnership with Elon, Jones says she hopes that Newlin students can learn from Elon students who may have different life experiences to share.

“My hope for them is that they see students that come from different worlds than they do but through that that they get to see who they are and that they all possess leadership skills,” Jones says. “Hopefully through that, they form a connection and a relationship and in return there’s this partnership created between not only our school but a connection between the students that will last just beyond a semester of a class.”