Who ARE WE?
We are Govie Leaders. 300 Strong.
A student walkout. The genesis of the Govie leader program occurred because thirty Johnson students decided to join an organized walkout in support of the Ferguson protesters in February, 2015. They left school at noon and gathered at the school flagpole. Several students spoke eloquently in the winter cold as news reporters arrived to chronicle the event. The students then walked three miles to the State Capitol to join other protesters.
Micheal Thompson, principal of Johnson, had forewarned the students that there would be a school punishment for their truancy. The punishment was to review with several staff members a documentary called “The Rule”, the story St Benedict’s Prep, an all-boy’s private school in Newark, New Jersey run by Benedictine brothers, and the development of a unique student leadership program. What makes this school unusual is the degree to which the administration allows the students to be directly responsible for the leadership of the school.
These events coincided with a conversation that was going on amongst several staff members at Johnson. How could we get our Johnson students to be less passive and more engaged in the classroom and the greater Johnson community? Using “The Rule” as a model, teachers and students began considering the kinds of changes that would have to occur. Everyone agreed that lack of time was the biggest obstacle. There needed to be dedicated time built into the school day for this work to happen.
What if the Johnson schedule was changed to create a 15 minute daily advisory during which Johnson student leaders would have the opportunity to practice leadership? Johnson staff members estimated that they would need at least 200 students to run such a program. At that time, the JHS Student Council consisted of 40 students, and met outside the school day. In March of 2015, Johnson staff members held meetings with the classes of 2016 and 2017 to see if they could get 200 volunteers to start this program in the fall of 2015, about a third of the enrollment of those two classes. Staff were amazed when over half of the students stepped forward, 375 students, to volunteer to be leaders.
Now in year three, our program is continuing to evolve. We still have 300+ students involved in leadership, and we are continuing to look for new ways to extend our work beyond the 15 minutes of daily advisory time. Hosting our first youth summit is one way of building on our foundation and growing leaders from the classes of 2018 and 2019.