Leadership Lessons From Cooperstown, New York

It was bitter cold in upstate New York this past week, but the school teachers and administrators there were warm and inviting, as two of us from Growing Leaders invested a day in Cooperstown, the home of the Baseball Hall of Fame.


photo credit: Dougtone via photopin cc

Tucked away in this village are educators who really care about building ethical servant-leaders within the student body. Let me list just some of the ideas they are using to create a leadership culture in the middle and high school there:

1. Teams of ninth graders and high school athletes are discussing one Habitude per week, creating a language for leadership among those students. The goal is for students to pass them along to younger students in the district.

2. Students are invited to go on trips to expand their vision for their career. Some just returned from Washington D.C. where they witnessed the presidential inauguration. Last year, several traveled to China for a cross-cultural experience.

3. As young teens, students are challenged to take ballroom dancing and cotillion lessons, culminating in a banquet where guys escort the girls into the building, into the ballroom and even to the restroom. Culture, courtesy and manners develop.

4. Each year, the senior class leads the way in service projects for the community, raising money for specific causes they deem worthy. This cultivates teamwork, planning and sacrifice among the student body.

5. Students were voting on a new name and mascot for their school, after concluding the current one is patronizing and lacked empathy for Native Americans. They’ll all have the chance to weigh in on what the new nickname should be.

6. Caring adults seemed to be everywhere, as parents, board members, civic leaders, staff and teachers invest in and mentor the students there. Their care went far beyond raising the kids’ GPA or test scores. It was about building great people.

Somehow, I think this is the ultimate purpose of education. Isn’t it?

Thanks Cooperstown for the example you set.


What signs of life do you see in other schools? I’d love to celebrate more educators who are doing a great job. Leave a comment below.

Leadership Lessons From Cooperstown, New York