Eighth Grade Leadership Kicks Off 2020–2021 Program
A key component of Landmark School's mission is to empower students to reach their academic and social potential. The Eighth Grade Leadership Program at the Elementary•Middle School fosters that growth, as well as builds community and emphasizes the importance of service.
"The program aims to empower eighth graders to create a stronger school community, while allowing them to recognize, grow, and develop who they are as individuals," said Tara Joly-Lowdermilk, the assistant dean of students at EMS. "We also instill the value of community service."
While this year the program will look different, traditionally students participate in community service initiatives both on- and off-campus. They host fundraisers to collect money for their eighth grade cruise, class gift, and off-campus activities. The students have partnered with elementary students as a part of a pen-pal exchange and organized special milkbreak events for the other classes.
"The students spend a good amount of time each year talking about leadership roles, skills, and traits they have or aspire and have or appreciate in others. Part of our goal is to help them see that as individuals they all have leadership qualities," said Joly-Lowdermilk. "Throughout the year they have the opportunity to use those skills in different ways. For example, they make a presentation in morning meeting, draft a proposal for an activity, and lead their smaller groups in discussion."
The 2020–2021 Eighth Grade Leadership Program held its first meeting in the gym on a snowy day in late October. The group's leaders, Joly-Lowdermilk and Laura Polvinen, facilitated the meeting. They asked students what they would like to focus on during their last year at EMS. Most responses focused on increased privileges, such as additional milkbreak activities, spirit week, and, fitting to the day's weather, hot chocolate and sledding. Joly-Lowdermilk and Polvinen also asked students to use one word to describe the entire eighth grade class. The answers illustrated the camaraderie and compassion the students feel for each other: family, respectful, leaders, friends, responsible, kind, independent.
The students then participated in a community-building game, in which two students stood on either side of a raised tarp. When the tarp was lowered, the student who said the other's name first won the match. The day ended with a viewing of the movie Black Panther.