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The positive impact of meaningful leadership | GUEST OPINION
In the Arlington High School Leadership class, we believe that leadership is not something that you are born with; leadership is a skill one develops through reflection and work. As the Leadership teacher, I am fortunate to work with a group of passionate young people that share this belief and are eager to make a positive impact on their world. One of these students is graduating senior Haley Duran.
I first met Haley in my freshmen English class. She was a quiet, albeit consistent student; there were hints of leadership potential in her contributions to our class and her cross-country team, but they did not come to fruition until she joined the Leadership program.
When Haley was a junior, the Leadership students began a long-term study of the servant leadership philosophy. Each semester, the students engaged in a study of James Hunter’s book, The Servant. Hunter’s definition of leadership is the “the skill of influencing people enthusiastically to work together towards goals for the common good, with character that inspires confidence.” An effective servant leader is one who meets the needs of those around him or her by practicing unconditional patience, kindness, humility, respectfulness, selflessness, forgiveness, honesty, and commitment.
From the beginning, Haley made a daily effort to be a more patient and respectful peer. By the end of her junior year, she was recognized by her peers and the AHS staff as someone who led by influence and her character. As a result, she was voted ASB Secretary by her peers. According to Haley, “Serving others was never about impressions or good karma. For me it was changing who I was to be a better person. I embraced the chance I was given to serve my school, community, friends, and family through my commitment, humility, and kindness.”
Embracing this chance, Haley and the Leadership program developed a variety of school-wide activities and traditions to meet the needs of our student body. The most recognizable of these events has been the AHS Lip Dub, a music video in which the school lip-syncs to a song over the course of a single, continuous shot. This award-winning video featured the entire school and brought AHS national recognition for its spirit and inclusiveness. Most recently, the Leadership class completed the second-ever “Murrathon,” a school-wide fundraiser where teachers (inspired by Mr. Jon Murray) run a full 26.2-mile marathon in the AHS commons. The Murrathon events have raised over $4,000 and thousands of pounds of food for the Arlington Food Bank, $1,000 for the international Soles for Souls program, and $1,000 for the Arlington Kids’ Kloset program. In addition, the Leadership students have consistently made efforts to encourage kindness, humility, selflessness, and commitment at AHS through the annual Kindness Wall. The Kindness Wall is where students can post notes of gratitude or encouragement towards their peers or teachers. The Leadership class also organized the first-ever Eagle Spotlight assembly, recognizing both students and staff for their positive contributions to the culture of Arlington High School.
These kinds of events would not have been possible without the passion and commitment of students like Haley. She consistently seeks out ways in which to celebrate the work of those around her, she is often one of the first to arrive and last to leave, and she improves the quantity and quality of the class’ work through her positive influence. “I have been less selfish and it feels good,” says Haley, “it feels good to change, to be better than you have ever been before.”
Next fall, Haley will begin her freshman year at Western Washington University, where she plans to study biology. She can be proud of the positive, influential legacy she leaves behind at Arlington High School.
Ben Ballew is an ASB Advisor and Leadership Teacher and can be reached at 360-618-6300 or via email at email@example.com.