Students jump at Lower School's leadership opportunities 

One by one, 14 students took to the podium to state their platform. “I stand for courage, compassion and community,” said fifth-grade student Jack Carson, a vice presidential candidate.

Dependable, responsible and a problem-solver were the words spoken by his classmate Zac Fowler, whose younger brother and sister were in the crowd cheering for him.

“Why do we have to sit through these long speeches,” questioned candidate Catherine Sarris? “To make sure you pick the right people to lead your school,” she replied. 

On Tuesday, Oct. 7, the Lower School community gathered to listen as their classmates and future leaders took to the stage to campaign for Student Council Association. It also was a chance for the students to take advantage of one of the many leadership opportunities offered at the Lower School. 

“I don’t think that we can ever give children enough leadership opportunities,” said Head of the Lower School Cleteus Smith. “It allows them to grow into the most well rounded and empathetic individuals for not only our local community, but also for our leaders of tomorrow.”

While the SCA positions of president, vice president, secretary and treasurer are offered to the fifth-grade students, students in grades K-4 are able to serve as classroom representatives. Each class nominates and then votes on a male and female class representative who take turns representing their class in the SCA for half of the year. 

Following Tuesday’s speeches, the student body took to the polls to vote (via iPads) for the students whom they thought would best lead their school. What’s most impressive about the candidates were their platforms. Yes, there were the promises of extra Jeans Days and more wacky activities for the year, but there also was a lot of thought that went into each one. 

“The messages this year were definitely community oriented – older students working with younger ones, toy drives for other children in our area, etc.,” said SCA adviser Kathy Windley. “To me, it shows that our students like our caring environment and think it is important.”

For example, new Oak Henry Glover suggested hosting a stuffed-animal drive in which the gently-used animals would be donated to area firehouses for children who are afraid. Henry spoke to a local firefighter who agreed it was a great idea. His classmate Zac suggested hosting a day of sports in which the Lower School would have teams of varying ages and the older students would help teach the younger students.  

“This year, I noticed that a lot of students began contacting outside organizations to make their ideas possible as well,” said Smith. “These were great examples of the students taking the initiative to involve outside organizations and really taking on leadership roles. 

“Running for these offices and being an officer teaches these children that leaders set examples, leaders can influence "policy" or at the very least tone of our school - the kind of school they want to be a part of,” said Windley. 

It was clear that students understood that.  For example, treasurer candidate Ryan Hodges said that his call to lead came from his desire to serve. “I want to help the school,” he said. His classmate Logan McEleveen agreed. “It’s important to show people how to act and how to lead,” said Logan, who ran for secretary.  

“The election process is important for them to see,” said Windley. “Those participating see that leadership is also work and those witnessing it, are learning the process and seeing how important it is to be a part of it.”

Other opportunities for students
In addition to serving on the student council, Lower School students learn the foundation of being good leaders through activities such as the Oak Ambassador Club, ODU Norfolk Collegiate Reading Partnership, Reading Buddies which spans across grades, the Birthday Fairies, the Kindness Brigade, through Spanish Week, WNCS News and the Safety Patrol, to name a few. 
 
“These opportunities also build a community of leaders. For example, we have older children reading to younger children with the Reading Buddies and ODU Reading Partnership,” said Smith. “It’s through these activities that they are practicing leadership.” 

For Glover, the campaign proved to pay off, as he was elected president. “It was a great opportunity for me to meet more people and a great opportunity for more people to know me,” said Henry. “I think that the speech today helps people get to know me better. I was secretary at my old school. I think this is something that I was born to do – to lead.”

A big congratulations to everyone who stepped forward to run for office and to the Lower School’s newest leaders: SCA President Henry Glover; Vice President Lexie LeHew; Secretary Caroline Creekmore and Treasurer Harrison Thomson.