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The goal of developing student leadership at Cox Middle School in Columbia, Tennessee is making progress with a year long program “The Leader in Me,” based on Stephen Covey’s bestselling 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

Soft SkillsWhen Dr. Timm Webb, Tennessee’s former education commissioner, became principal of Cox, he stepped into a school where there were problems of pervasive bullying and small-time gang presence. He and his staff implemented two changes. The “Leader in Me” program and “Cougar Academy”, a classroom for troubled students, have shown progress this past year.

“There was a time last year when you couldn’t even walk down these hallways without some kind of trouble,” said Webb. “I’m not talking about gang activity or fighting, but I am talking about a lack of respect for one another, pushing and shoving and bad language. It was a mess.”

Recently, the school held a celebration of the change in approach to behavior and social needs of students. Invited guests learned about the experience students had as a result of “The Leader In Me.”

“Teachers, students and the community knew a change must be made, so we did,” eighth-grader Lakameron Buchanan said. “As students, we are glad the teachers cared about us to make a difference. We are learning more every day about how to be a leader … and the path we choose.”

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