Paving the way to unity
Students at Meridian Creek Middle School are stepping up as leaders to create a more inclusive and positive school environment.
Megan Tarry, teacher and cross country and track coach, started a student leadership program at the school a few weeks ago.
Tarry and other teachers at the new middle school began the school year with the knowledge that other middle schools in the West Linn-Wilsonville School District had student leadership programs.
"So halfway through the school year it was time for us to have our own student leader group and we have a big philosophy in our district about not leading alone, so it was a group of adults who came together," said Tarry, adding that she invited them to her classroom one day and they put together plans for four student-leader trainings. "Kids could come — maybe they'd be intimidated by an application or an interview — and just show up and put the effort in."
The before-school Friday trainings are organized by four topics — positivity, integrity, inclusion and how to be a leader and a learner at the same time. The first Friday, 77 students showed up, and the second Friday 82 students showed up.
"We were blown away by the number of kids who voluntarily showed up before school on a Friday morning and continue to show up," Tarry said. "We would like as many leaders at Meridian as possible."
Sixth-grader Aric Mistovich is training to become a student leader to help out the school and other students.
"The first time for positivity, we had this game where we stacked up plates and cups and that was building up with positive words. Then the ball knocking it down was negative words," Mistovich said.
For seventh-grader Annalise Muñoz, she looks at this opportunity as impacting her more internally.
"I wanted to be a student leader so I could gain the confidence myself; to be strong, to teach others and to give out my confidence," Muñoz said. "I look at it more (as) a confidence boost."
After the four trainings are finished, the students who completed them all will then meet once a month with Tarry for leadership training. Other staff will take on a project every quarter where the students will sign up to join a certain committee.
And the student leaders and trainers already have several ideas in mind.
There will be a dodgeball tournament Saturday, Feb. 3, to raise money for outdoor school scholarships. Feb. 7, all teachers will lead lessons on social inclusion, and on Feb. 9, student leaders are going to host a lunch as part of the national "No One Eats Alone Day." There are also several other ideas in the works — a few being Spirit Week, a food drive and a book drive.
"Students are more ready than we realize to get hands-on experience being leaders and the more they internalize the message of 'I am a leader,' the less likely they are to follow a hurtful or weak idea," Tarry said.