By JOHN KLINE
THE GOSHEN NEWS
Educators at Parkside Elementary School are putting out a call to the community this month for help in sending as many kids as possible to a special leadership and character-building summit at Goshen Middle School this June.
According to Jan Holsopple, guidance counselor at Parkside Elementary, fostering leadership skills in today’s youth is growing more important with each passing year as more and more employers say students entering the workforce lack the necessary character and leadership skills needed to succeed.
Two years ago, Parkside entered into a partnership with the Indianapolis-based non-profit C.L.A.S.S., or Connecting Learning Assures Successful Students, an educational support organization specializing in curriculum development and best teaching practices.
Through that partnership, a student leadership ambassador program was initiated at the school with the goal of teaching character, respect and responsibility to the school’s students.
As an extension of that program, Parkside, over the past two years, has held a special three-day leadership camp each summer with the goal of extending the ambassador program experience beyond Parkside and bringing those leadership opportunities to other students from the surrounding area.
While very successful in their own right, Holsopple said one of the biggest issues she had with the leadership camps was that while the educators had opportunities to follow up with students participating in the camps, there really was no opportunity to follow up with the parents to get them involved and engaged in encouraging the kids to continue with what they learned at the camps throughout their daily lives.
“So this year we’re going to change it up a little bit,” Holsopple said. “Instead of a camp, we’re going to be doing a day-long event at Goshen Middle School that will include the parents as well. It’s going to look very different in that we’re still looking at leadership skills and character, but with this event we’ll be looking at how big of an impact they can make in a single day.”
Set for Wednesday, June 12, check-in for the new leadership summit will begin at 8 a.m. at Goshen Middle School with the official kickoff at 8:30 a.m. The event will conclude at approximately 6:30 p.m.
“The morning’s going to look like kind of a workshop setting, where we’ll divide the students up into groups of five with a counselor and work on their leadership skills,” Holsopple said. “Then we’ll also have Jason Samuel, the general manager of 91.1 The Globe, the Goshen College radio station, who will be working with the students to make public service announcements about leadership and character.”
Following their morning session, the students will begin making their way to downtown Goshen at around 1 p.m. where they will be paired with a previously selected business. That business will then work with the students throughout the remainder of the day to promote a particular character trait or leadership skill.
“So they’ll be doing things like putting up a sign or display in a store window, then they’ll also probably have a Facebook page that they would ask the business to promote,” Holsopple said. “For instance, one of the hair salons downtown will be setting up a couple laptops, and people coming in can “Like” the Facebook page and leave a message on how they use that particular character trait in their life.”
Then at about 5:30 p.m. a special Family and Community Leadership Summit Celebration event will begin at Goshen Middle School where parents will be invited to discuss with educators the progress their children made throughout the day while also learning how to encourage and promote the continued use of those skills by their children in the future.
“So it will look very, very different,” Holsopple said of the event, “but we’re very excited about it.”
The program is open to all students from the Elkhart County area entering grades four through six. Holsopple said she has a goal of sending 100 students to the summit. Cost to sponsor a child for the event is $200.