Beginning in late September, about 800 Felten and Kennedy Middle School students will participate in a new leadership program developed by the partnership between Fort Hays State University's Center for Civic Leadership, a service entity of the Department of Leadership Studies, and the middle schools.
The Sept. 23 session will introduce the eighth graders from both middle schools to leadership with a half-day "kick off" that will include leadership activities on the FHSU campus. Seventh-graders will begin on Sept. 29 and sixth-graders will start Sept. 30 respectively.
"The reason why we're having eighth graders first is to challenge them to set an example for the younger students, since they're the oldest in the middle schools," said Jill Stafford, instructor of leadership studies. "We're hoping that they can be role models to them."
"Middle school is a tough age," said Kandra "Kandi" Craig, Hays senior and youth development coordinator for the center. "Learning these things early will help them develop good life skills. The younger you learn them, the better you will be."
Each day will begin at 8:40 a.m. with an address from President Edward H. Hammond. Afterwards, approximately 30 leadership studies students and faculty will assist the students with various hands-on activities that will focus on four main areas: defining leadership, teamwork, bullying prevention and positive communication. The sessions will end at 12:15 p.m.
"The idea to collaborate the efforts of a university and two middle schools to promote leadership development is cutting edge," Stafford said.
Students will continue to benefit from the program through follow-up training sessions in each of the middle schools throughout the school year. The program will include a community service project each semester that will involve both middle school students and FHSU leadership students.
"Never before has this number of students benefited from a program that will enhance leadership skills, encourage strong character development and increase communication and teamwork among classmates," said Lori Hertel, Middle School Drug Prevention and School Safety Coordinator.
In the past, the FHSU Department of Leadership Studies and the Center for Civic Leadership have provided leadership training to Felten and Kennedy Middle School character education students. These were seventh-and eighth-graders who demonstrated leadership qualities while in the classroom.
"After school officials noted the obvious benefit these students were receiving from the program," Hertel said, "the decision to expand to include all students was an obvious next step."
"This is a great experience for both age groups," Stafford said. "The kids love working with college students and the college students get a unique experience."
For more information about the partnership, contact Hertel at (785) 623-2450 (Felten Middle School) or (785) 623-2470 (Kennedy Middle School). FHSU contacts are Craig at (785) 628-5592 and Stafford at (785) 628-5562.