I wish you could meet Billy Richardson, Vice Principal at Kennesaw Mountain High School. More than that, I wish you could meet the teens that attend there. They experience such an incredible culture on this campus, I just had to share it in a blog. For years, the administration at KMHS has been determined to deepen character and cultivate leadership in their student body. I believe they’ve accomplished something many would say is impossible. Let me share just part of their story, right from the words of Billy and his students.
The Special Dance
One of the ways they’ve developed a culture of servant-leadership is through an initiative they perform for students with special needs. Believe it or not—it’s a dance. Yep. Each year, the students host a huge dance for kids with special needs around the county; over 700 kids come, and between 300-400 students volunteer to be “mentors” (buddies for the kids, to have fun with them, dance with them and make their night amazing.)
The high school students recognized that the kids in wheelchairs often get neglected at events like this because they can’t physically dance. Students will either host the dance in a wheelchair, or just dance around them in a circle if the kids cannot move at all. One group of three guys came into lunch at their school on a cart, bearing flowers and posters. And they asked kids to the dance.
This dance has become so significant that students at Kennesaw Mountain High School invited local politicians to attend—not just to see the kids, but to talk to those civil servants about the fact that there is not an athletic field for kids who are disabled. Suddenly, everyone understood the power of such an environment. These students persuaded local politicians to budget for the construction of a special needs baseball field. They now have a Special Needs Baseball Park in Acworth. By the way, the athletes serve as mentors too. They help the kids with special needs take their turn at bat. It’s amazing.
Shop with a Mustang
The KMHS students also shared how they “adopt” 200 kids from feeder schools. These kids are selected because they come from economically challenged families. They told us: “We have to raise around $45,000 to make sure each kid gets $100 to spend for the holidays. We make it a priority to get coats and clothes first. Everyone gets a sweatshirt—then they can buy whatever they want with the money. We provide breakfast and pizza for lunch. We also bring wrapping paper for them to wrap their presents. We have Santa’s workshop where we encourage them to get gifts for their families too.”
KMHS “Mustang” students have asked the stores to give discounts so they get more for their money. One student said, “With extra money we raise, we purchase reading glasses for kids who can’t afford them.” The bottom line? They say their goal is to take kids who won’t have a good Christmas and give it to them.
One high schooler said, “It’s the best part of my holiday, honestly. I’m going to miss it when I graduate. Anywhere I go, I’m definitely going to make sure I keep doing it.”
Another said, “I’m so thankful that we have an opportunity to do this... Especially with Mr. Richardson’s support. Everyone thinks, 'What kind of difference can a couple of high schoolers make?' We’re doing it. And it wouldn’t be possible without Mr. Richardson. We are so thankful for him.”
Here’s a question for you. How often do you see high school students doing things like this—then saying how grateful they are for their school administrators? This incredible school in Cobb County has created a leadership culture. What’s more, their ideas have spread to 32 high schools and 2 colleges, all over the country.
Don’t tell me Generation iY students can’t be leaders. I won’t believe you.
Want to build a leadership culture with your students?
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