CatholicLink: Building Middle School Leaders

After leading the CatholicLink Middle School Leadership Conference in May, six Notre Dame Academy students participated in a week-long design sprint led by Abbie Withbroe, educator at St. John the Baptist, and Jaime Danen of Notre Dame Academy. The goal of the week was to develop a student-led character and leadership program for students from kindergarten through high school. The program they developed, Building Character, Growing Leaders, will help students develop the virtues and skills of strong leaders to impact their school and broader communities positively.

Throughout the summer, two of the students continued the work of the design sprint week to develop this leadership program which is now being piloted in three schools: St. John the Baptist, Notre Dame of De Pere, and Notre Dame Academy.

At all middle schools, students are leading and organizing leadership clubs that meet twice a month. The first meeting of the month consists of playing games and working on leadership skills, whereas during the second meeting the students plan lessons and activities which will be taught in K-5 classrooms.

At Notre Dame Academy 15 students are involved in the rollout of the program. They have named this program Notre Dame Leadership Academy (NDLA) and are working hard to involve many more students into the program.

Jamie Danen, Literacy Specialist and Equity Coordinator of Notre Dame Academy states, “This is an entirely student-led program. Students decide what the outcomes will be, how we will get there, and what it will look like when we are successful. They are intent on making this a program that is appealing to all students at NDA. Additionally, they are running each meeting, planning each event, and making deliberate decisions about what will and won’t be included in the program. I have never been involved with a group of students who have so genuinely owned their leadership position and are so excited to train and prepare the next generation of leaders for this program.”

Notre Dame Academy students had these comments to share about the program.

“I think that this is a rare program where change and progress really happen. You don’t see that with a lot of high school programs and I hope we can continue that.” – Camden – Senior, NDA

“The CatholicLink Leadership program is incredibly meaningful to me because I’ve always enjoyed taking on leadership positions, but I’ve never been involved in something so focused on cultivating the qualities of a truly good leader in me. I also love being a part of real programs and changes in our school community and the community as a whole.” – Adalyn – Senior, NDA

“The Catholic Link leadership program has been infinitely beneficial for me. It’s helped me improve in my con dence, organizational skills, communication skills, and, of course, leadership skills. I feel prepared for my future because of my work with CatholicLink.” – Eli – Senior, NDA

This program was supported by a grant to CatholicLink from the Kern Family Foundation and the students are excited to continue to develop and grow the program for all GRACE schools.

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