VCS LEAD Mentor Program 2012-2013
Promoting Leadership, Empathy,
Accountability, and Discussion
What is the VCS LEAD Mentor Program?
LEAD is a bystander leadership and student empowerment program which promotes social climate change among kids via bystander leadership mentoring/discussion forum groups formatted as extra-curricular clubs; these groups meet during the school day in order to include all groups of students. Team LEAD promotes leadership, empathy, accountability, and open discussion along with a service mentality.
In the VCS, the program components include:
- Team LEAD groups for 8th graders at both TJMS and BFMS
- Elementary Team LEAD groups for upperclassmen in several elementary schools which are quickly expanding to more elementary schools this year.
- The VHS LEAD Middle School Mentors: approx. 165 sophmores, juniors, and seniors from VHS working with every 6th and 7th grader in the district.
- The VHS LEAD Elementary Mentors: approx. 60 sophmores, juniors and seniors from VHS working with Cooks Corners Elementary School Students.
- Approx. 30 volunteer staff, parents, and community members K-12 acting as facilitators for the mentor teams, hospitality room helpers, and program sponsers in elementary schools. Without these amazing folks, none of this could happen!
We now have over 10% of the high school student body involved as a LEAD mentor for either middle school or elementary students! (and that’s just from sophomore-senior classes!)
Goals of LEAD:
- To provide a support group for service-minded students who wish to do the right thing and make a positive difference in both their school and community
- To challenge the upperclassmen to model and support positive social relationships and behavior and a service mentality
- To be a catalyst and support mechanism for positive social climate change in schools
- To drive a systemic pro-social climate/leadership program internally through the students themselves, thus creating ownership for a more powerful, effective program.
- To create the framework for peer mentoring
- To provide a student-led peer aggression forum in schools
- To create an inclusive student leadership and support group; Team LEAD draws students from all social and socio-economic groups, the athletes, leaders, academics, loners, at-risk, and so on.
- To create strong, confident, compassionate, altruistic leaders for the future of our community and beyond.
Philosophy of the VCS LEAD Program
Creating safer schools and communities requires a multi-faceted and creative approach. Peer aggression, depression, cutting, drug and alcohol abuse, and school violence are symptoms of underlying issues such as a breakdown of positive leadership skills, pro-social skills, resilience, ethics, school connectedness, and accountability. No packaged curriculum or set of lessons will ensure a safer school. Wherever human beings exist, conflict will arise. Our goal is to teach and encourage more positive pro-social skills, leadership, and resilience so that when conflict does arise, students have better options for dealing with challenging situations. Research shows that to create positive social climate change among kids, kids must be empowered to take ownership of that change while counting on adults in the system to support and encourage them in those efforts. Adults and students must work together to create a positive climate in their school. Adults modeling respect, empathy, and kindness, followed by trained upperclassmen modeling respect, empathy, and kindness toward younger students, adults, and peers will help set the stage for creating a new norm of positive interactions for all in the building.
Why the Bystander Leadership Approach "Works"
- The majority of peer aggression occurs in the presence of other students; rarely are teachers present, and rarely do they even find out what has happened.
- When students have ownership of the program, it means more to them; they take it more seriously, and it empowers them to be more positive leaders.
- If bystanders ignore the aggression, the aggression simply continues, according to a 2006 Australian schools study by Rigby and Johnson. (Please note: “standing up” as many older anti-bullying programs and misguided media representatives promote is actually ineffective and even harmful to all involved if not done carefully. “Support and Report” is much more effective and something ALL kids can do comfortably without creating more drama and conflict.) See Youth Voice Project research by Stan Davis and Charisse Nixon.
- Rigby and Johnson (2006) found a significant correlation between tendency to intervene and expectations of friends; those who felt that their friends expected them to step in and support a target were much more likely to do so. (2006).
- The LEAD philosophy provides the three biggest protective factors for kids (hardwired to Connect research)
- Sense of belonging
- Higher Purpose
- Authoritative Schools
- Most importantly, teaching pro-social behaviors within a character/leadership backdrop instead of an “anti-bullying” backdrop is more effective, for both children and adults.
2012 LEAD Mentor Contract