St. Mary Parish students taught leadership

CENTERVILLE, La. -- Two St. Mary public schools are seeking funds to start a program based on Stephen Covey’s “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” over a three-year period.

Using the same principles from his best seller, Covey outlines steps to empower children to become leaders in his book “The Leader in Me.”

The program touts itself as producing results such as higher academic achievement, fewer discipline problems and increased engagement among parents and teachers as well as equipping students with the self-confidence and skills they will need to thrive as adults.

Centerville School Assistant Principal Kristina Estay and Hattie Watts Principal Niki Fryou attended a Leader in Me symposium in March. They brought the program back to their schools and faculty volunteers — 15 at Centerville and 13 at Patterson — and participated in a book study over the summer.

Centerville Principal Mike Galler said of the program, “We’re always looking for a program that would teach kids a little bit more responsibility. We want to find the good that we can find in them.”

Estay agreed with Galler’s assessment, adding, “It helps the community because our kids are going to learn to be leaders so when they go out into the community as members they have the skills they need to be successful.”

Estay and Fryou visited Martin Petitjean Elementary School in Rayne, a Leader in Me school in its third year, where they said they viewed an assembly planned and run effectively by elementary school children.

“They took control of their learning,” Estay said.

Galler said the students there were respectful and “self-confident in what they were doing.”

Fryou agreed.

“Just to watch the pride and the confidence in those students was amazing. I would like for people to come into our school and say ‘Wow, look at these children!’ I think it could change not only our school but our whole community,” Fryou said.

The next steps involve educator training including a Vision Day and three days of Seven Habits training.

Both Estay and Fryou indicated that they not only wish to train teachers and administrators, but everyone involved in a student’s daily life — from cafeteria workers and janitors to secretaries and bus drivers.

“It teaches our kids to be leaders and take ownership of what they’re doing so that when they do go out into the community they have those life skills to get them through everyday living. It teaches them a work ethic,” Estay said.

The total cost of the program at Centerville, $85,942, broken up over three years. So far, Estay said, $15,000 of the first year’s $32,000 cost has been raised.

In Patterson, the initial quote of $80,000 will be reduced slightly because some of the books already have been purchased. A back-to-school dance held to raise funds for the program also generated $4,000, Fryou said.

“If we’re going to do it, we’re going to do it the correct way. We don’t want to do bits and pieces. We want to be a true Leader in Me school, and we want to do it all so we can be successful,” Fryou said.

Hattie Watts’ training to begin the first year is set for June 16 to 19.

Meanwhile, several classes are piloting some of the principles taught by the program this year.

St. Mary Now & Franklin Banner-Tribune

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