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Finding the way from classmate to leader can be challenging, which is why John Jay High School provides leadership training for team captains, club presidents, and Campus Congress representatives.
The practical training--offered by the school's Dignity for All Students (DASA) Committee--took place in late September.
Students met in small groups with a mentor to discuss the particular challenges of communicating with peers, handling conflict, maintaining positivity, and how to respond to negative and discriminatory behaviors. Librarian Lauren Carrigan and teacher Vicky Weiss, guidance counselor Malerie Simon, and social workers Dr. Pat Bragdon and Kiri Ryan participated.
Dr. Bragdon began her group with the Human Knot, a hands-on activity in which participants untangle themselves through working as a group. Laughter and blurts of "I can do it!" . . . "I am the leader!" . . . "Wait! New rule!" came out of the circle.
“We are all leaders,” said one student after the experience. “We all try to take charge.”
“As a leader, you may find yourself in situations that are not always comfortable,” said Dr. Bragdon. “You will need to listen and sometimes respond in a way that is not second nature to you.”
The students discussed the difference between reporting and tattling. They also reviewed DASA and how bullying can be a federal civil rights violation.
“There are no jokes," said Dr. Bragdon. "If someone is offended, it was no joke."
“We want to empower them as leaders,” said Kim Piccolino, Assistant Principal of John Jay High School, and member of the DASA Committee. “We developed this training so students understand the significance and the seriousness of the role they have taken on.”
"We felt that if we trained the school leaders in tolerance and acceptance, they could turnkey that message to their respective organizations, creating a more positive environment," said Weiss. "As the leadership training annually evolves, we continue to take into consideration suggestions made by students on how to improve the day and what other topics they would like to see addressed."
“What does it mean to be an up-stander?” Dr. Bragdon asked the group of student leaders.
“Standing up for what you believe,” two students said at once. The others nodded in agreement.
Over one hundred John Jay students—mostly upperclassmen and women—are voted in or appointed team captains, club presidents, and Campus Congress representatives.
From Air Raid, John Jay’s Ultimate Frisbee club to the yearbook staff, and from cross-country to wrestling, the student leaders work closely with advisors and coaches. They run warm-ups and boost morale as well as create events, shape performances, and set goals.