Former Virginia Beach Education Foundation (VBEF) president Tom Wilson was a leader in his community who supported education his entire life. Therefore, it is befitting that a VBEF grant awarded to support leadership training for students was underwritten by The Tom Wilson Memorial Fund. Wilson passed away in June 2013, and the family asked that memorial donations be made to his favorite organizations, such as the VBEF.
The VBEF Innovative Learning Grant awarded to Independence Middle School (IMS) helped fund its 2015 leadership workshop held at Jamestown 4H Camp Jan. 17-18. More than 50 student delegates attended the overnight, weekend workshop that was planned by a student staff comprised of IMS eighth-graders and students from three different high schools.
Chris Felton, IMS student activities coordinator and grant project director, said that a majority of the student staff members from Bayside, First Colonial and Princess Anne high schools attended IMS and went to the middle school’s first leadership workshop four years ago as eighth-graders.
First Colonial High School junior and IMS workshop staff member Aliyah Simmons explained that “leadership workshop helps students to function better in school and later in the workforce by providing them with the essential leadership skills needed.”
Decision making, communication, group dynamics and personal responsibility were among the skills and topics covered in instructional sessions. Activities also included community service, recreation and meals together as well as group projects designed for students to apply and practice their communication, collaboration and problem-solving skills.
The goal, as the 2015 IMS leadership workshop theme promotes, is for students to “press on and up” back at school as they continue their academic and extracurricular activities. The theme was selected by workshop staff members based on an excerpt by George S. Forest that includes the following lines:
The path to wisdom and success is not for the kings alone; it is open to you and me.
If there are a hundred steps in your path to success and you have not reached it in 99 of them, do not conclude that the journey is a failure.
Press on and up.
The prizes are generally at the end of the effort, not at its beginning.
Felton’s VBEF grant application noted that the number of IMS students becoming involved in clubs and organizations has doubled since the inception of the leadership program. “Students are motivated and excited to be involved,” he wrote, “and they want to make something happen, as well as see a better legacy being left for those who follow them.”
“The workshop allows them to be their ‘true’ selves while feeling free to try new exciting activities,” added Felton. “They often would not step out of their comfort zone without the opportunity of the workshop.”
Stepping out of their comfort zone is what Simmons observed many workshop participants doing.
“I loved how outgoing they were,” she said. “Although it was a long weekend, they continued to participate with so much energy and they understood the concept of working with others. The team-building activities helped them see just how much you need other people for support, love and encouragement.”
Working together. Love. Support. Encouragement. The former VBEF president Wilson couldn’t have planned it better himself.
For more information about the Virginia Beach Education Foundation or to make a donation to support grants that fund innovative and creative learning programs for students, visit www.vbef.org. View additional 2014-15 VBEF grant projects and those from previous years here.