Brittney Burns – Staff Writer

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams

The students at Iotla Valley will begin the school year next year with the goal of dreaming more, learning more, doing more, and becoming more, all because of a new program adopted by the faculty and staff.

Iotla Valley Elementary School will undergo a school transformation with faculty, staff, and student leaders dedicated to teaching students leadership and life skills and creating a culture of student empowerment based on the idea that every child can be a leader.

After more than a year of fundraising, planning and professional development, Iotla Valley is ready to launch the school’s new leadership program — The Leader in Me.

The Leader in Me is a program based on the business and self-help book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” written by Stephen R. Covey. The “7 Habits” is a synthesis of universal, timeless principles of personal and interpersonal effectiveness, such as responsibility, vision, integrity, teamwork, collaboration and renewal, which are secular in nature and common to all people and cultures. The Leader in Me focuses on Covey’s “7 Habits” – Be Proactive, Begin with the End in Mind, Put First Things First, Think Win-Win, Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood, Synergize and Sharpen the Saw.

While faculty and staff spent the summer in professional development opportunities, Iotla Valley students got their first taste of the new program last week at its first annual Camp WolfPack for fourth graders.

The camp invited all rising fourth graders to participate in a sleep-in at the school and gave teachers the opportunity to work with students in small groups to teach them about the “7 Habits of Happy Kids,” a kid-friendly version of Covey’s “7 Habits” and the foundation of the Leader in Me Program.

With school starting Monday, the now trained fourth graders will be leading the pack, spending time in each grade level teaching the other students the habits. During the camp, the students tie-dyed leadership shirts, learned leadership songs, created artwork and played games designed to build teamwork.

The new program was broken down to cost about $30 a student to implement, all of which was raised through fundraisers over the last year. The cost of the full program for the first year totaled $35,458, which included four days of training for staff and additional coaching during the school year. Iotla Valley has raised about $23,000 for the program, and to be able to implement the program, they made cuts to the material needed for the program to balance the budget.

After the program’s first year, Iotla Valley will need to raise $15,500 to keep the program running in a second year. Fundraising efforts have already begun with several fundraising events already approved by the board of education for the upcoming year.

The Leader In Me Program was started at A.B. Combs Leadership Magnet Elementary School in Raleigh, N.C., under the leadership of Principal Muriel Summers. Summers partnered with Franklin Covey to create the program which turned her failing elementary school into the #1 magnet school in the country. Several schools in Western North Carolina have implemented the program including Weaverville Elementary, Weaverville Primary, Estes Elementary, Averys Creek Elementary, Dana Elementary, Sugarloaf Elementary and Koontz Intermediate.