Students at John Tyler High School taking part in a new leadership initiative are learning that the ripples they make can turn into waves for change.
John Tyler is one of three Tyler area schools selected by Chick-Fil-A at Broadway Crossing for its Leader Academy initiative. The other schools joining the program are Robert E. Lee High School and All Saints Episcopal School.
Owner-operator Jeff Johnston and his wife, Debra, have partnered with the schools to help guide and fund a program which will initially involve 30 students who are tasked with bringing in others to better their community.
Students will meet monthly throughout the school year while working on three major projects. In September, the students kicked off the program with the “Big Thank You.”
The first project saw students filling donations for the East Texas Food Bank. They also will be looking for a way to show appreciation for someone in their life, Chick-Fil-A South Broadway Marketing Director Marcy Myers said.
Senior Madelaine Contreras said she believes the school not only will meet, but exceed, their goal of 300 students impacting the community.
“Everyone here has a great mindset,” she said. “It always good to help other people and we don’t get a lot of opportunities to do that.”
Program sponsor April Caldwell was immensely proud of the student response to the project. She was able to fill every slot without having to do any convincing.
“It’s going to be as big as they want to make it,” Caldwell said. “That ripple will go as far as they want to send it.”
As these 30 students cast their stones into the community, they join the 60 others at Lee and All Saints. Eventually those 90 become 900, which is just a fraction of the hundreds of other schools participating nationwide.
Debra Johnston said she was excited to have received such an enthusiastic response from the students. After taking over the restaurant three years ago, she and her husband went to work looking for ways to get involved with their city and the families of the customers they serve.
“We’re trying hard to be part of the community and invest in them, because they invest in us,” Johnston said.
Myers said the program will instill two points of focus for the students.
“We want to teach leadership outside of the classroom as they go out into the world,” she said. “It also helps us recognize our community’s needs. We are blessed, even if we only have a little.”
The students receive no extra credit or volunteer hours for being involved in the program.
Caldwell said they are doing it because they want to make a difference.