Leadership is an important quality in all walks of life. Cultivating students into leaders is critical to the Academy’s mission and whole child philosophy. Morgan Park Academy engages the whole child, inspires the independent learner, and prepares the global leader of tomorrow to make a positive difference in the world. Student leaders learn about accepting successes, and equally important, learn from failure.
There are many opportunities to lead at Morgan Park Academy, including: student council, house leaders (Upper, Middle, and Lower School students who lead our four House System and plan cooperative teambuilding activities), and line leaders (students who rotate various jobs within a classroom) in the Lower School. Furthermore, within the Arts, Athletics, and Service divisions at MPA, opportunities abound for students to get involved in activities outside the classroom.
One goal for the Director of Student Leadership is to encourage and create new and ongoing positions for our students to gain leadership experience. All Upper School students may start new arts, service, or recreational co-curriculars by submitting an application to the Upper School Student Council for review.
Within the Arts Co-curricular opportunities, there are leadership positions in the theatre, including: student director, backstage director, costume designer, and character leads. In band, there are section leaders and student directors and in chorus, soloists display leadership.
In athletics, even non-athletes can get involved for the love of sports. Our Warrior Snack Shack is a student-run activity that provides an opportunity for leadership as students delegate responsibilities within the concession stand. In addition, several “Pack the Place” events throughout the year, games where students and faculty attendance are at a high to support our athletes, show the Academy’s support of Athletics, but also allow students who are not on teams, to still participate.
Service projects create wonderful opportunities for students to practice and develop leadership skills. Our robust Service Council encourages students to become altruistic leaders by providing opportunities for volunteerism. Through relationships with Habitat for Humanity and local soup kitchens, two whole school days devoted to service, and various celebrations throughout the year like Earth Day, our students learn how important and fulfilling it feels to give back to the community.
Over the past six years, the Academy has cultivated many opportunities for students to step up into leadership roles, even for short periods. The committee who planned the All-School Earth Day Celebration is an example of a short-term leadership opportunity. Each sub-committee of the Service Council is led by a student working with their committee members to identify, plan, and execute specific tasks to be completed during this Celebration.
Leadership development strategies are embedded in the Academy’s instructional practices in all subject areas across all grade levels. As we continue to create roles for students, they have become more willing to take ownership of ideas and to cultivate them, knowing they have the support and guidance from their teachers. Looking forward, we hope to continue to foster this environment of leadership in which each and every student leads his/her peers towards a positive goal.
By Thomas Malcolm
Mr. Malcolm is the Dean of Student Life. He also teaches Middle School science at Morgan Park Academy, a Chicago Private Independent School.