Union Academy receives grant award for ‘Habitudes’ learning program

In the Social and Emotional Learning Program “Habititudes” teachers facilitate a “huddle” in which a topic is introduced and students share how it relates to their everyday lives. The huddles meet twice a week for about a half hour. The exercise is designed to kick-start conversations and inspire memorable experiences that instill valuable leadership and life skills. Photos by Bob Scott

Diane Peltz – Contributing Writer

Union Academy has been the recipient of a grant, from The Growing Leaders Foundation, to pay for their involvement in the Social and Emotional Learning Program “Habititudes” for the past three years.

Diane Cotton, principal of Union Academy, explains. 

“In January of 2018, Union Academy received a grant from the Growing Leaders Foundation to provide professional development to teachers, the curriculum, online resources and a motivational speaker during a kick off event.  At that time, Timothy Alexander, along with members of the Growing Leader organization, came to Union to motivate our students and introduce the Habitudes program.  Our students were grouped into Habitude Huddles, small groups of 8-12 students who remained together as a group under the same Habitude facilitator.  Every member of our staff is trained on Habitudes and facilitates a Habitude Huddle.  They meet twice a week for 30 minutes. 

“During the Huddle, students are taken through the curriculum and have a safe supportive environment to discuss the topic and how it can relate to their everyday lives.  The training has equipped facilitators to speak the language of our students, kick-start conversations and inspire memorable experiences that instill valuable leadership and life skills.  Habitudes utilizes real-life imagery and stories to engage students in a creative and relevant way,” she continued.  

“It has proven to spark a positive shift in our school’s overall culture.  We have found our discussions in the Huddles allow students to break free from peer pressure and learn to use their influence in positive ways.  It has brought about greater empathy in our students, minimized bullying, and allowed students to capitalize on their own personal strengths.  They have reported it helps them develop critical thinking skills that produce better life choices.  

“Last year, our students began several service projects as a direct result of the Habitudes program. They visited nursing homes, assisted in a preschool classroom, worked on campus beautification projects, and partnered with Nantahala Hiking Club to perform needed maintenance on a portion of the Appalachian Trail. Many of them joined our afterschool program conducted by Macon County School Resource Officer Anthony Zari. The Molding Tomorrow’s Leaders Club performs a service project every month.  They have helped organize shelves at CareNet, worked organizing and cleaning various charity clothes closets, made holiday cards for nursing homes and veteran’s organizations, and provided physical labor for various nonprofits in our community.

“Last week, we were elated to find out we have once again been awarded the Growing Leaders Foundation grant to continue using the program with our students during the 2020-21 school year.  During this time of uncertainty, our students need every advantage to overcome the obstacles placed before them,” she concluded.

Growing Leaders is a global nonprofit that encourages and equips young adults to take on real-life opportunities and challenges by partnering with schools and organizations to teach practical life and leadership skills using images, relatable stories and experiences. Their youth leadership development program and curriculum helps organizations:

– Create a healthy culture that fosters leadership at all levels

– Provide adults with the necessary tools to connect with the emerging generation

– Guide unprepared teens to productive adulthood

– Equip students to think and act like authentic leaders

Many organizations in the business world, such as Chik-fil-A, Coca Cola, and Popeyes, use the Habitudes program to train their employees. In addition, many major league and college sports programs use Habitudes with their athletes.