Leadership class takes ‘at risk’ students into ‘as hope’

Leadership class takes ‘at risk’ students into ‘as hope’
Leadership teacher Amy Donofrio, Alan McCullough, Lee High School Principal Scott Schneider

Alan McCullough, a 10th grade student at Robert E. Lee High School, was one of 26 young people selected nationwide from over 200 applicants for the Harvard University Advisory Board, a project of the Graduate School of Education called Making Caring Common.

The Board advises on strategies for exploring the ethical and moral issues of young people and establishing ways to make schools and communities “just, caring and respectful.” The students represent 15 states across the nation from a diversity of backgrounds.

McCullough, who was nominated by Principal Scott Schneider and Rick Badger with assistance from Lee High Leadership teacher Amy Donofrio, completed the rigorous application process.

“We consider students normally identified as ‘at risk’ as ‘as hope.’ A lot of people have taken notice of Alan’s abilities and helped him to believe in his own abilities,” said Schneider.

One goal of Donofrio’s Leadership class, EVAC – CAVE spelled backwards – is to lead students out of a cave of hopelessness and ignorance into leadership. To reach that goal the students in the class have met with State Attorney Melissa Nelson to find solutions on ways to reduce juvenile crime and violence and have participated in forums on Juvenile Justice in Washington, D.C. EVAC classmate Bernard Thomas represented the group at a national Youth-Police Roundtable Nov. 15-16 in Kentucky at the invitation of the International Association of Chiefs of Police in partnership with the Department of Justice.

McCullough had an opportunity to speak at the White House when his class went to Washington, D.C. in October to participate in Senate committee hearings concerning juvenile justice reform.

“A year and a half ago I didn’t see any hope. I was surrounded by negativity and violence,” said McCullough. “Now I have spoken at the White House, am on this board. We even got to attend a meet and greet with President Obama. I am ecstatic – it seems unreal – like one big dream.”

McCullough’s one-year commitment to the Harvard Board involves organizing a team of students from Donofrio’s EVAC class to present a summation of “What kindness means to me.” Technology allows the students and the directors to communicate through virtual meetings, conference calls, and twitters.

“I never expected to be doing all these things,” said McCullough. “It’s amazing how we started small and just keep growing and growing. Now we feel that what we have to say counts. There are a bunch of opportunities for me.”


By Peggy Harrell Jennings
Resident Community News

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