Preparing students for leadership is the aim of a summer academy which focuses on developing empathy in students entering middle school.
24 children preparing for middle school were guided by staff of the University of Northern Iowa Center for Urban Education Leadership Academy, which included local high school teachers and UNI education majors.
In groups, children worked with academy teachers. They told and listened to stories of being left out, chosen last and picked on or ridiculed. They then stepped on a sheet of paper in the midst of the group with an outline of a pair of feet. There they told how the situation could make them feel.
This was a leadership activity included in the four week academy course. Students were nominated to participate in the program by their fifth grade teachers at Dr. Walter Cunningham School for Excellence and Highland and Lincoln elementary schools.
“These are all students who have the potential to be leaders, but something is holding them back,” said UNI student Bridget Tharp. She has been a teacher in the program for four years. She says the program is designed to “prepare them for middle school, prepare them for being lifelong leaders.”
A racially diverse group of students makes up the program, where students study writing, reading, math and Spanish while participating in leadership exercises and field trips.