EXPO Alternative Learning Center (EXPO-ALC) has been a shining light through the Leader in Me programming. It is exciting to see the transformation that has taken place in the hearts and minds of students, teachers, and administrators at EXPO-ALC. Leader Valley asked Henry Shepherd, EXPO-ALC Assistant Principal a few questions to share some of the impacts that Leader in Me has with students and educators at EXPO-ALC.

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What paradigms are integral to creating a leadership culture at your school?

When you change paradigms, you’re changing how you think about something and at (EXPO-ALC) our paradigm shifted in the way we think about student leaders as a result of implementing Leader in Me. One major paradigm that occurs for most (if not all) schools at the onset of their Leader in Me journey is the notion of what makes a “good leader”.

In general, people have a perception of what makes a good leader and what qualities and/or attributes a good leader possesses. Staff and students alike at EXPO-ALC have had to adjust our perceptions of student leaders and we’ve worked to dispel any notion that pigeon holes and/or limits our student leaders. We’ve had students who wanted to join Lighthouse but were reluctant because of their own preconceived notions about leaders and leadership.

The photo taken pre-COVID-19.

Our current paradigm is that EVERY STUDENT is a leader; some are more vocal and seek out opportunities to lead in front of their peers and others prefer to lead in a more subtle way and prefer not to be in the spotlight. At EXPO-ALC we celebrate each student’s unique gifts and talents and we believe that every student is a LEADER!

What are your school’s “big rocks” as it relates to creating a leadership culture?

We utilized part of our LIM Coaching Days to identify our “big rocks” for the 2020-2021 school year. As a Lighthouse Team, we agreed that one of our “big rocks” would be to make sure every staff member and every student at EXPO-ALC has a Mission Statement and that each student’s mission statement is embedded within their Personal Bank Accounts (PBA). By embedding mission statements within the PBA students have the opportunity to review them with a staff member on a weekly basis and make adjustments as necessary.

EXPO Alternative Learning Center (EXPO-ALC)

The photo was taken pre-COVID-19.

Our Lighthouse team also agreed that exposing every student at EXPO-ALC to Leader in Me (LIM) lessons on a weekly basis would also be one of our “big rocks”. During the 2020-2021 school year, students attending EXPO-ALC have the opportunity to participate in LIM lessons weekly during Oasis/homeroom and LIM lessons will be embedded into our physical education program. Our Student Lighthouse team also identified the environment as a “big rock” for the 2020-2021 school year. Specifically, our students identified areas of our building/campus where we could enhance the message/image we’re conveying to our staff, students, families, and community members about leadership.

What are the results you have seen as it relates to leadership, culture, and academics?

As a result of implementing LIM at EXPO-ALC, our Lighthouse Student members have made it a goal to increase the number of students participating in the Lighthouse team. Increasing Lighthouse membership was derived from current student members and as Lighthouse staff members we’ve observed Lighthouse Students “recruiting” peers for Lighthouse. Personal Bank Accounts (PBA) at EXPO-ALC have a dual-purpose and serve as the student’s electronic leadership logs. The PBA provides opportunities for our students to set daily/weekly goals and monitor both academic and behavioral progress. Students have the opportunity to discuss their PBA and personal goals with peers as well as staff members weekly during Oasis/homeroom.

Because of LIM, the leadership opportunities for students at EXPO-ALC have increased significantly and our students know and believe their voices are heard. During the 2019-2020 school year, Lighthouse Students identified the “image” of EXPO-ALC as a big rock and they identified numerous ways we could improve the image of EXPO-ALC. Our student’s voices were heard loud and clear when they advocated to adopt a school mascot and change our school’s logo. Our students felt strongly that every high school should have a mascot and EXPO-ALC should be no different. Throughout the school year students planned and implemented various fundraisers to generate funds needed to purchase a mascot costume. Because of the Student Light Team, we are now the EXPO-ALC Eagles; the image of an eagle is proudly displayed on our letterhead, signage, and clothing attire.

The photo was taken pre-COVID-19.

Students interested in Lighthouse must complete an application process and secure signatures from two staff members as references. Lighthouse Students must maintain all passing grades and not receive any major referrals. If a Lighthouse Student happens to receive a major referral or a failing grade he/she must meet with a Lighthouse panel consisting of both students and staff to review their infraction and make recommendations.

One of the more significant impacts we’ve witnessed as a result of implementing LIM would be seeing Lighthouse Students tutoring and mentoring their peers in regard to both academics and behaviors. It truly warms your heart to see a Lighthouse Student mentoring another student and helping them develop a plan to improve their academics and/or behavior(s) so he/she could become a Lighthouse Student in good standing.