MANATEE -- With outstretched hands ready for a quick shake, students at Rowlett Academy for Arts and Communication showed off their leadership skills Friday to the community.
The event was a day of celebration for the magnet school-turned-charter's recent recognition as a "Leader in Me" Lighthouse school, an honor bestowed upon 180 schools worldwide by Franklin Covey Co., a global public company specializing in performance improvement.
"It's a day for the children to show off their accomplishments," school Principal Brian Flynn said. "It's kind of like a celebration day for them."
Students in the school are taught the principles laid out in "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People." Former Rowlett students testified about how those principles have been helpful to them as they've continued on in their educational careers.
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"The seven habits that they teach you at this school really do help you get through the rest of your life, as I've found in middle school and through my two years of high school so far," said Ryan Thompson, a 15-year-old sophomore at Saint Stephens' Episcopal School.
One of the habits that sticks with him the most? Begin with the end in mind.
"I feel like that teaches you to be proactive, and being proactive is one of the things they try to imbed in you here and get you to understand most," Thompson said.
To earn the Lighthouse status, according to organizers, schools have to show:
The environment reinforces the leadership model by displaying leadership language that emphasizes individual worth and potential in hallways and classrooms.
Teachers integrate leadership language into school curriculum and instruction.
Staff collaborates and works together to effectively build a culture of leadership.
Students are provided with meaningful student leadership roles and responsibilities, such as mentor, public speaker, school tour guide, and greeter.
Parents are given opportunities to learn The Leader in Me model and the 7 Habits and are involved in activities that support the leadership model.
A system is in place for setting and tracking school-wide, classroom, academic and personal goals.
Leadership events are held to allow students to practice their leadership skills (e.g. public speaking, sharing data, confident greetings, etc.) with community business partners, parents, and other educators.
The school leadership team meets regularly and oversees schoolwide implementation of the leadership model with the help of students, staff, parents and community members.
Measurable improvements in teacher engagement, parent satisfaction, student behavior and academic alignment are shown by comparing baseline data with the tracking of ongoing data.
Rowlett was given the award in early 2016.
Rowlett fifth-grader Gaby Cortes, 10, led the morning session for visitors.
"We're very excited to have everybody here," she said.
Visitors took a tour of classrooms and different programs the school runs that offer students the chance to build their leadership skills. Display board were set up in the media center and students were on hand to describe the projects they've done, including Adopt a Highway.
Teaching leadership skills at a young age is like planting a seed, Flynn said. The earlier it starts, the more it has a chance to grow.
"If you develop it as a young age, it can have a huge impact," he said.
Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter @MeghinDelaney.