Jackson Leadership Fellows generate a project as part of their cohort year to advance their leadership skills and contribute to their communities. 2022 Jackson Leadership Fellow Mollie Price teaches social studies and serves as the support lead for English Language Learners. She shared the story of her project at Hazen High School in Renton, Washington:
Midway through this school year, I stood in my high school’s library listening to reflections on service leadership that were exactly – I mean ex-act-ly – what I needed. Droplets of wisdom, inspiration, reflection, hope.
For my Jackson Leadership Project, I designed and piloted a service leadership program for my 10th grade Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) class, which helps students develop skills to be successful in college. Guidance from my Jackson Fellows cohort and staff, resources from Leadership Tomorrow, and suggestions from my teacher colleagues aided my effort.
Over six weeks, students worked on being present for a community that’s meaningful to them – everything from a basketball team, to a racial or national identity, to a friend group. The students determined what their community needed from them, used librarian-guided research as well as interviews with friends, peers, family members, coaches, mentors, and siblings to figure out how to develop skills to support their community. At the end, they implemented what they’d learned: through trial and error they developed tangible service leadership skills, put them into practice for their community, and shared their learnings.
This project was ostensibly for my students – I want them to be the future leaders of everything! – but with the gift of hindsight, I know that the project was equally – if not more so – for me. The anxiety and decidedly unromantic ennui that permeated much of this school year was, um… a lot. I needed to give my students a sense of agency, power, and compassion. And the students came through, as they always do.
While I can’t realistically link to all of their final project presentations (much as I would like to!) I asked some of my students to share reflections about how this project influenced their understanding of leadership. It’s tough to describe fully the feeling of being in the room with brilliant, funny, loud, kind 15- and 16-year-olds who are not broken, who are not hopeless, who are ready to tackle the future, but I think their words will give you a taste.
Ever since I was a little boy… I wanted to be hidden on the sidelines. I mean all that attention and responsibility seemed like a handful to a young, reserved kid like me. And I can guess that many people like me are rocking in the same boat, wishing to make a big difference in the world, but too afraid to take that step forward. To me, a leader always seemed magical, charismatic, and overflowing with confidence that someone like me could never achieve, but maybe my perception of great leadership was skewed in the wrong direction. Maybe leadership isn’t about the person that’s leading, getting all the accolades, but about being a servant to the community by taking a step back and listening to the people who need help the most. – Eric Tran
Over the last year or so, I’ve come to realize how important it is to establish a good relationship with your community in order to effectively guide and be there for them. I want to be the kind of leader who works with their community instead of against it. – Brooklyn Salkin
I used to lack the motivation to be a better leader because I used to think that leadership was just natural. I used to think everyone could just snap* and boom, be a leader. It turns out that you need to put in more work if you want to be a good community leader for any community that you’re representing… You would think I would have a solid definition on what the word leadership means but I don’t. [Through this project] I got a solid view of what my communities want for now, but this view can change every day and they can change as my community grows and I grow with them. I learned that a good leader is good at connecting with others, but a good leader is also someone who is able to adapt with their perspective community as they grow and reform themselves. – Luis Morales
At first, I thought that leaders solely existed so that they could keep a group in check and advance through steps, but throughout the course of this trimester, I found out how incorrect I was. I realized that there is much more to it than I initially thought. In the beginning of the school year, we did an activity where we as a group, defined what we thought being of service and what being a leader meant. By doing this activity, I found out that there are a lot more similarities between being of service and being a leader than I thought there were. – Amiroh Selah
I developed my skill mainly because I saw what my community lacked and I wanted to make an impact, specifically talking about my high school community. The pandemic was definitely a big factor in this. Students are very segregated and either have their own little groups, or don’t talk to anyone, and I saw how it was affecting people, including me. I always imagined high school to be like those cute videos you would see on YouTube or Facebook of people in their high school years, and the whole high school would be a big family. But I didn’t expect our generation to be the complete opposite of that. I learned that you need to be patient. It’s a long process, and you need to stick around and stick to your values in order to see the outcome you want. You need to work hard, and work with others. Be a team member not just a leader. Serve the community, not just your own needs. – Michelle Miteva
At the start of this project, I believed that the definition of community leadership is growing and developing into the best possible version of yourself to serve your community, but I no longer believe that due to no longer believing that the best version of yourself exists. Because no matter how much growth and development you go through, you are still a human being who is bound to make mistakes. I now believe that community leadership means trying your best every day to make a difference. – Ems Ku
We commend Mollie for developing this program, which advances the Foundation’s goal to promote Jackson leadership values to younger, diverse generations. Given its success, this pilot project will now become part of the curriculum, to the benefit of several hundred students.