Orange Lutheran High School – Orange, CA

A Growing Leaders Case Study

Middle & High School Case Studies > Orange Lutheran High School

Teaching Students about Character and How to Understand Their Behavior

The faculty of Orange Lutheran High School in Orange, California had determined that there was a growing need to develop leadership skills within their students. High school, in the eyes of most students in the Orange County community, had become more of a “means-to-an-end” rather than part of the process on the path to success. Leslie Smith, Head of School at Orange Lutheran High School, discusses how her and her faculty developed a unique initiative for implementing and teaching Habitudes in a meaningful way.

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Video Transcription

Leslie Smith, Head of School: When we determined the need to develop leaders on our campus, with all students, we recognized that we needed to do something different. We live in a generation, specifically in Orange County, California, where it felt like high school was really more of a “means-to-an-end” rather than a process; and, that “end” was basically college. The college admissions process has become so competitive, especially in California. In fact, fun fact, 9 out of the top 10 schools based on volume of applications are in California. That means that the majority of colleges that receive the most applications, 9 out of the top 10, are in California. So, we really feel it. The competitive admissions process has absolutely affected the way students are raised and the way they are educated. And, we found at our school that we felt we were more focused on developing a “profile” or a resume for a student, and we realized we wanted to be more intentional about raising, or developing, students who are ready for college. Instead of focusing on the profile or the resume, we wanted to focus on the student; and, a big part of that is leadership development.


When we started that journey, we were looking for tools – for a toolbox to really develop leaders and we were really impressed with the idea of Habitudes and having a timeless truth anchored to an image. So, we sent a team to go and be certified and to learn more about Habitudes, and we all – we didn’t have to be sold on it. It just made sense, it made perfect sense for us. So, we were all trained, and loved it, brought it back to the school, and designed, actually, an initiative that we called “World Council” to try and figure out a way that we could really implement and teach Habitudes in a meaningful way.


There’s 1,350 students at our school, 9th through 12th grade. And so, we would teach the concept “whole-group” and then we started doing these small breakout groups. And we found that it has actually been very effective, it has become part of our vernacular – just kind of a common language. In fact, I have to give a shout out. One of our honored scholars, he got up in front of 4,500 people at graduation and he referenced all of, or a good amount of, the Habitudes we did. It was “Drivers and Passengers”, “Iceberg”, “Funhouse Mirror”, and “Starving Baker”. And he specifically gave a shout to, and talked to, the students – his graduating class of 330 – messages and values that went along with this.


It’s had a positive impact. It’s been interesting also extending that to our staff. And so, teaching those leadership concepts as a faculty and staff and getting us on the same page, and then learning how to have meaningful interaction in a small group setting – that’s been an interesting transition for us. I would say the vast majority of the teachers and staff understand and appreciate the value of Habitudes.


It has provided an opportunity for us to do fun things on campus. For example, when we did “Funhouse Mirror”, we kind of made a carnival theme. We had games out during lunch, we had popcorn and the kids were coming on campus handing it out. So, I would say that there have been with the leadership kids in particular – we have a student leadership class – they are the ones who have taken ownership; it has been very impactful for them. And in seeing them share the message, way more impactful for the rest of the student body as well.


Habitudes is a great tool for students to give them an image that they can connect a timeless truth, a leadership principle, a value that they can carry on in their life now, currently, and that they can take into their future as they go off to college and into life.