Veteran teacher Judy Gunnett is excited. In her 28 years at Barnett, she hasn’t quite seen anything like the new program she advises called Emerging Leaders.
The group has been going strong since the fall, and with each month it gets better.
Emerging Leaders is open to upper grades only—fourth though sixth—and is divided into three areas of opportunity to serve. Students can be a part of the safety patrol, the student council or the environmental team. While each group has a designated forte, each depend on the others to help the entire school.
For example, student council will organize events like the talent show, holiday games, the sale of candygrams and fun activities, and they even help make decisions on the Reading Counts Program. In March, they put together a series of games for St. Patrick’s Day and one involved potatoes.
“Well, that’s where the environmental team stepped in,” said Gunnett. “They didn’t want to have to throw away a bunch of potatoes after the event. They said, ‘Wait a minute. There are a lot of people starving in the world. We can’t just throw a bunch of food out.’ So they came up with the idea to paint Wiffleballs brown and have that be our potatoes.”
Besides policing waste, the environmental team comes up with inventive ways to reduce trash and to get kids to recycle more. They recently learned that there is a company that recycles juice boxes, so they started collecting them and, in return, they are sent money, which goes to the school.
They also attempted to reduce trash by testing a new system with the kindergarten classes.
“Each kindergarten student was given a small plastic container to take to and from school with their snack in them,” said Gunnett. “Our goal was to have the classes see how much less trash they would have by using these plastic containers, and it was something to see.”
The safety patrol does morning and afternoon parking lot control, helping students get across the street and to the car pickup area. In the kindergarten through second-grade classes, they have presented information about the importance of safety on school grounds and they’ve shown signs they may see on the road.They are sometimes there after hours, too, helping at night with parking and lighting when there is an event at Barnett with parents.
Whenever something requires a helping hand to protect the students, the Barnett Safety Patrol is wearing yellow T-shirts and hats, taking their jobs very seriously.
“It’s absolutely fantastic,” said Gunnett. “They have a good time and I am really thrilled with how it’s going. Sometimes by spring other things come up and students get busy, but we haven’t had any drop in commitment level. They keep coming.”
The leaders—there are about 85 students—meet every other week during lunch. Each group has elected officials who run the meetings, and they all puts their heads together respectively to come up with new ideas that can benefit the whole.
“It is so fun to hear their ideas,” said Gunnett. “It gets me excited. I sit back as much as I can and let them take on the leadership role and do it themselves, and I am amazed at what they come up with.”
Recently, they successfully published their first student-written newsletter and lobbied to add music to their lunch hour on Fridays. Over the holiday season they extended their service to the community by gathering food for the Ramona Food and Clothes Drive.
“They see a need and they go for it,” said Gunnett. “It continues to grow and they continue to show their talents. They are so excited to come to school and be a part of this program, and I just love working with them.”
Anyone can be a part of the program. It just takes an application and parental consent to join. Once they are part of it, they have to make sure their grades and citizenship marks stay high.
With the first year of the program almost complete, Gunnett looks forward to next year, when the program likely will continue to try new things. She has no doubt the young leaders will be right there beside their adviser.