Nurturing a New Generation of Leaders
In 2015, Raytown High School in Missouri created a much-needed class for its student leadership organization, Jay Crew, but the course still required a concrete curriculum. So the school adopted the Lead2Feed initiative, a free program of leadership lessons that students explore through activism in local or global communities in need.
For their first project, Jay Crew students led a food drive at a local grocery store for the Raytown Emergency Assistance Program, a local nonprofit. They raised $1,000 and collected 5,000 nonperishable food items.
This small yet important deed has since expanded into a districtwide annual event that the mayor has officially designated as “Lead2Feed Day.”
In 2017-18, Raytown High students collected over 20,000 nonperishable items and $5,000 in cash donations. “The program really exploded,” says Chad Bruton, principal of Raytown High, which serves 1,460 students. “I’m amazed at the creative things different groups of students come up with. It’s fascinating how they take these lessons and make them their own.”
Adaptable yet structured
In the Jay Crew course, the flexibility of the Lead2Feed lessons allows the class instructor to choose when to teach certain concepts while still providing structure such as deadlines for entry submissions. “That’s the beauty of this program,” says Bruton. “It helps propel instruction, but is flexible enough to be integrated in any way.”
The lessons themselves address learning objectives, such as how to lead and speak, says Bruton. There is also clear application of key 21st century skills that help students create and plan their own project.
In one exercise, learners have to come up with a way to convince an audience to support their cause in three minutes. “In the end, it’s all up to the students to exercise voice and choice,” says Bruton. “I think that the kids really got behind that concept and were highly engaged.”
Educators across the district got behind it as well—many have even implemented the lessons into their own classes. “Anything that pumps resources into our community is hard to say no to,” says Bruton.
Students take the lead
Outside the classroom, Jay Crew council members organize and plan Raytown High’s project after school. Student leaders also speak at various community organizations— including Rotary, Kiwanis International and the Board of Education—about why they should donate to their program on Lead2Feed Day. “I have even had the mayor stop by to tell me how great our kids did when presenting to the city council,” says Bruton.
For these presentations, Raytown High administrators allow students to check in and out during the day.
Competition spurs more results
Participating classes also compete in the Lead2Feed Challenge for prizes funded by the Lift a Life Foundation and awarded by the Foundation for Impact on Literacy and Learning. This, Bruton adds, gives students more of an incentive to try to get an edge over their classmates.
This year, five grand prize winners across the U.S. each received $10,000 to give to their charity of choice and $2,000 in tech products for their school. There are 50 winners each year that receive charity grants of various amounts.
“Students have definitely learned leadership skills and the importance of giving back to the community,” says Bruton. “These are kids who will be doing this for the rest of their lives, and Lead2Feed definitely gave them a leg up to do this going forward.”
The Lead2Feed Student Leadership Program is open to grades 6 through 12. The program is privately funded and free to educators. For more information, visit Lead2Feed.org/join