Mar. 7, 2023 --
Monticello Middle School teacher Angela Kirkland believes in self-fulfilling prophecies. She has recruited 6th graders to join her Leading Ladies club in the hope that they will indeed become leaders.
In the past, she explains, Leading Ladies only accepted students with high GPAs who were recommended by teachers for already demonstrating leadership traits. But she knows that there are a great many other girls who would benefit from the experience of being seen as a school leader, of forming positive relationships with both their peers and with trusted adults, and of engaging in projects aimed at improving their school and community.
While some variation of the Leading Ladies had existed at Monticello for years prior to Covid, this is a new iteration of the club based on the current needs of teens. “I see this as a backwards design,” said Ms. Kirkland of choosing some girls who need this kind of engagement the most. And her intention has proven successful. “They have truly risen to the occasion.”
The group meets once a week after school, for an hour on Wednesdays. The girls are given the first ten minutes to catch up and unwind from the day before launching into whatever project they’re working on. They’ve collected toiletries and new socks to donate to a women’s shelter, created an Attitude of Gratitude wall
for teachers and classmates to celebrate all they’re thankful for, and have a series of guest speakers lined up, primarily women of color from a variety of fields. A partnership with Church on the Heights will allow the girls to do everything from work in the food pantry to shoot hoops in the gym, while also providing them with mentors from the community.
But mostly, they’ve formed relationships with one another and with an adult who cares about their emotional well-being and development. “I want to give them the chance to figure out how to navigate this world as a middle schooler. From how to handle social media to how to feel proud of who you are,” said Ms. Kirkland.
It all seems to be working. Jashiya says she joined because “I just really like being around people who are role models and good influences.” Kamaurie is even more straightforward: “I wanted to join Leading Ladies to be a leader and stay out of trouble. My goal is to hit the Honor Roll.” Imani says that being in the club “brings that good out in you.”
Da’Niyah believes “the community should know this is an amazing and inspiring program and everyone should have the opportunity to join a program like this.”
Unfortunately, because Ms. Kirkland is the only advisor this year, not everyone will get that chance. She plans to loop with this group of girls and stay with them throughout their middle school years. She hopes that someone else will plan a similar group for other grade cohorts. She tells her students how beneficial a club like Leading Ladies would have been for her when she was their age.
“What I see in you all gives me hope for the present and hope for the future.”