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LEAD with an IDEA empowers FHS students to create positive change at building

LEAD with an IDEA meeting

September 14, 2023


Sometimes, being a strong leader means having a strong idea and vision for the future. As a group of Fairview High School students recently discovered, leadership can mean much more than that.

Last school year, approximately 40 students participated in LEAD with an IDEA, a training program provided to students at FHS in conjunction with the Effective Leadership Academy (ELA). 

“LEAD with an IDEA was created to guide students through a series of interactive discussions focused on inclusivity, diversity and empowerment, leading to the development of a school-wide student-led plan for change,” Jessica Vaughn, talent manager with ELA expressed. “Empathetic leadership and empowering action are skill sets that will impact students now and follow them throughout stages of their lives in any environment and circle of influence they may have. 

“LEAD with an IDEA equips students with the skills to listen, the desire to lead, and the impact that leaves a legacy,” Vaughn added.

“The first five or six weeks, it was all pretty much leadership development,” Ben Stoessner, a senior in LEAD with an IDEA explained. “There were videos that would show us scenarios and lessons. We had activities with groups. They encouraged us to sit with different people every week so that we could get to know people more and find out what makes them different from you, or similar to you.”

Besides learning leadership skills, styles, and personality types as part of the LEAD with an IDEA program, students identified what areas of the school could use improvement. A lack of school spirit and a need to promote inclusivity stood out for students. 

“Those were the big ones that I remember," said Stoessner. "We want to eliminate any type of discrimination towards any group that is different from your own group of people, trying to promote a new thought process and to empathize with people."

“I feel like LEAD was one of the best things that could have happened,” Alex Brown, another FHS senior in LEAD with an IDEA explained. “The group there really did want to make a change in the school, even if you didn’t expect them to. It was a lot of you can’t judge a book by its cover. People who wouldn’t necessarily talk with each other were talking, and getting along with each other.”

“It was very interesting to hear people’s perspectives,” Stoessner added. “Normally, if you didn’t surround yourself with them, you wouldn’t hear their opinions or know how they felt about things in the school…I learned a lot more about the people I go to school with.”

Students submitted their report to building and district leadership, including the superintendent, as part of making real organizational change.

“It was nice to see that it was taken seriously, and it was something [teacher and administrators] wanted to hear,” Brown added. “Definitely, towards the end, when we had similar things we wanted to have changed, it brought the whole group together to where we did want to fight all for the same thing. Everyone wanted to contribute to the same conversation.”

“When you’re in Fairview, you’re kind of in this bubble, and you have this security blanket that you kind of know everyone here and have experiences with them,” Stoessner added. “In college, it feels like you’re going into pretty much a whole new map of the world. You have to find a way to connect with people that are different from you. 

“It’s what I took away the most,” Stoessner added. “I’m getting prepared for the rest of my life, and all those next chapters, to collaborate with people in my life that are different from me.”

Each month, we will highlight Fairview Park students who display important skills learned through our framework for student success, the Fairview Advantage. The Fairview Advantage includes a student skills profile, a unique set of attributes that prepares our students for success after graduation. The nine areas of the Fairview Advantage include: create, innovate, investigate, collaborate, communicate, solve problems, lead, reflect and serve.