3 lessons from students about improving school culture

When the administrators at Vestavia Hills High School in Alabama were tasked with creating a leadership program, they knew one thing right away: They did not want to develop another program that tapped only the top students and did nothing the engage the rest of the student body.The resulting Youth Leadership program has not only had a positive impact on the school’s culture, but also provided the school’s administrators with several important lessons. In their edWebinar, “Build a Positive School Culture with a Student-Run App,” Kym Prewitt, leadership teacher at Vestavia Hills High School, and Whit McGhee, director of public relations at Vestavia Hills City Schools, shared what they learned and how the kids continue to surprise them.Educators cannot make school culture better by telling students what to do and how to act. This does nothing to create honest connections among students. At Vestavia, their first step was to give students opportunities to connect, to provide them with a place to meet, and to encourage the connections. The core issues were kindness and acceptance, and the students needed to take the lead in creating a welcoming culture so they would feel ownership of the program.

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