Last week, Henderson County Education Foundation had the privilege to attend and co-host the Leader in Me (LIM) Symposium in Asheville, NC. The two-day event was hosted by Buncombe County Public Schools, Henderson County Public Schools, and their respective Education Foundations. Over 400 educators throughout our region attended the event to learn more about LIM to support their current model or to glean knowledge in order to start the process in their district. It was a packed schedule of school tours, inspiring speeches from administrators, educators, and students currently participating in the LIM process at their schools, and breakout sessions to dive deeper into the details and opportunities of LIM. The Symposium was inspiring and thought-provoking with Henderson County students and administrators shining as they gave speeches, sharing their LIM knowledge, and using their talents to entertain. Also, teachers from several of the Leader in Me schools led breakout sessions to share their “lessons learned” with symposium attendees. Some of the favorite events of attendees were visiting local schools to see the power of LIM at work. Dana Elementary School was one of the five Henderson County LIM schools that hosted symposium attendees for school tours. Of the ten Henderson County schools that participate in LIM, Dana Elementary School, Apple Valley Middle School, Sugarloaf Elementary School, North Henderson High School, and Mills River Elementary hosted school tours and had students and staff lead sessions and panels, and Fletcher Elementary School had students participate in the Q&A panel. The following is an account of the Dana Elementary School LIM program: While the Dana Elementary students stole the attendees hearts, their presentation “Wildcats Light the Way” and tour was also an excellent showcase of incorporating the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (with an added 8 Habit created by Leader in Me) and principles to create a positive, enriching, and engaging school experience. The Seven (8) Habits are:       Habit #1 – Be Proactive       Habit #2 – Begin with the End in Mind       Habit #3 – Put First Things First       Habit #4 – Think Win Win       Habit #5 – Seek First to Understand then to be Understood       Habit #6 – Synergize       Habit #7 – Sharpen the Saw       Habit #8 – Find Your Voice Fourth-grade student leaders, dressed in school colors of purple and white, met visitors inside the door when they arrived. The attendees were greeted with eye contact, a smile, a firm handshake, and given directions to the gym for the program. Once in the gym, fourth-grade guides like, Yaretzi (Yari) Ayala, helped everyone to a seat and instructed them on how to check in on the computer at my table. Parents, grandparents, and educators from the region poured in to watch the event/celebration. Led entirely by the students, the program was kicked off with the two Masters of Ceremonies, Pablo Perez Orihuela and Jaxson Hyder. Everyone said the Pledge of Allegiance, and then the first-graders recited the school mission statement and sang a song. Students (even a first grader) gave speeches about how LIM has positively affected them.

Wildcat Mission Statement: Our mission is to work together to be and achieve our best. I value myself. I value others. I am a Wildcat. Roar!

Once the program concluded, attendees were divided into groups and sent off on a school tour. Two of the poised and confident student guides were fourth-graders, Jennifer and Alexander.

Jennifer and Alexander

The halls were covered with messages of empowerment and positive affirmations. One of the prominent wall decorations was a mural completed by the students with the assistance of the art teacher with the message, “Be the I in Kind.” This mural demonstrates just one of the many ways that teachers incorporate LIM language while teaching their subject to the students. Among the many other positive affirmations posted in the halls were “Change Your Words, Change Your Mindset,” “Be Proactive,” “You’re in Charge,” and “Choose Your Weather.” There were “shout out” cards posted that recognized individual students when they complimented or helped their peers. Goal pyramids were found throughout the building pushing the students and staff to climb higher in academic and life skill areas. Our guide, Alexander showed us a picture of himself outside his classroom where he and other students were picked by their peers for being a good leader that week. Teachers welcomed us into their classrooms and offered us a window into how they use the seven habits in their lessons. The school visit ended with a flash mob of the students and teachers singing the upbeat song, “Wavin’ Flag,” as they danced us out of the building. Thank you to principal, Kim Kisner Morgan, staff, and students for showing us such warm hospitality and allowing us a peek in the window of your school.  Along with the strong leadership of the Dana administration, the culture is clearly supported by the principles of Leader in Me.  The two-day Symposium demonstrated how the Leader in Me model is powerful, positive, and transformative for all involved. Does LIM help the classroom daily? Yes, of course. But LIM lessons are also life skills that spill over into future educational experiences, the workforce, and also personal lives. Henderson County Education Foundation was proud to participate in the Symposium and to watch our school communities shine. About Leader in Me in Henderson County: The Leader in Me is FranklinCovey’s whole school transformation process. It teaches 21st-century leadership and life skills to students and creates a culture of student empowerment based on the idea that every child can be a leader. Since 2017 HCEF and Community Foundation of Henderson County have been co-leading the effort to add more Leader in Me Schools in Henderson County. Henderson County has a total of 10 schools that participate in Leader in Me and is adding another middle school this fall.