Sunday, April 1, 2012

James Martin Middle School

Hello internet world!

As busy students, working to balance a schedule chock full of rigorous academics, exciting social schedules, and, yes, even the occasional chance to sleep, it is sometimes difficult to imagine it possible to add yet another activity to our daily routine. But one thing that can definitely be said about Levine students is that we are very passionate about our service to others. Nevertheless, when I moved here to Charlotte from a small town north of Wilmington, I was worried that it might be difficult to find a way to get meaningfully involved in such a large city.

One of the most rewarding things that the LSP has given me the opportunity to do this year is work with the students of James Martin Middle School. I was so excited to learn at the beginning of the year, that as our freshman service initiative, we would be helping to pilot the brand new Leadership Class at JMMS. This class is the first district-wide to combine the academic and social learning spheres and hopefully the participation of the scholars can have a huge impact on its future success. As passionate young leaders ourselves, this gives us an excellent opportunity to foster this same spirit in a group of kids who might otherwise not be able to find the role models to grow into the wonderful leaders that they can be. And certainly, as this year has progressed, these students have grown tremendously.

The very first class was a little bit chaotic. To be honest, it was really a mess of shouting and everyone trying to get noticed by the cool college kids. I distinctly remember one of them asking what college parties were like. Once the general excitement of having college students in a middle school class started to wear off we began to get into more a serious leadership curriculum. Throughout the year, we have discussed the students’ opinions of ideas like what makes a good leader, the key aspects of teamwork and how they can improve JMMS, as well as had an opportunity to share our own examples of what we have found to be successful leadership characteristics.

The JMMS class has even taken the lead on several projects in the school. By far the most exciting of these was their coat drive for Crisis Assistance Ministry. The class proved what a force they could be in the school, leading their classmates to collect 106 coats! As Kevin C. pointed out, many of our own high schools haven’t been that enthusiastic! But even better than that admittedly impressive number was the smile on all of the kids faces when they presented us with their haul and the donations that they would be sending to Crisis Assistance Ministry.

As the class has progressed we have also been able to tie leadership ideas into their academic work. Most recently, we have been tying the idea of role models into Wes Moore’s book The Other Wes Moore. Our foray into the world of Wes & Wes started out with the class’s exploration of role models from North Carolina and others who have had a personal impact on their own lives. As they began to delve into the book, we also got to have discussions about the role models for the book’s central characters. Most recently, we facilitated a fishbowl discussion, where college and middle school students alike were able to delve into the ideas of ethics and good social behavior as has stemmed from the ideas in the book. It was great to see the students, who in the beginning were more interested in getting to talk about their day begging to be let into the circle to express their own opinions. As a capstone on the idea of role models, the class will take all the ideas that they have learned this year, and put them together to make “Minute Memoirs” as a guide to success for the incoming sixth grade class.

The opportunity to work with JMMS this year has been a unique one. Coming into my freshman year, I never expected the chance to watch a group of young people transition through one of the most important formative periods of their lives. Throughout the journey I have witnessed so much growth in the students. Many have gone from barely being able to introduce themselves in our very first meeting to excitedly presenting their own ideas. They have taken the charge in the social issues that plague their school. I can only wait to see what amazing things they accomplish in the future.

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