Leadership Lessons: “Ready to Learn, Ready to Lead, Ready for Life”

CitizenshipWhile last month’s column found leadership lessons off the beaten path, this month took me down a more likely road to a chamber member whose mission is to “train leaders with life skills for the twenty-first century by establishing strong academics, character training, and a parenting program.” Life School is a charter school with over 5600 students enrolled at campuses in Dallas and Ellis County. The school’s chief financial officer Jennifer Wilson serves as treasurer for the Midlothian Chamber board. Jennifer also offers strengths-based leadership training to business and community leaders through Primer, with profits supporting the Life School Education Foundation. In addition to many other volunteer roles in Midlothian and Red Oak, Jennifer and Life School’s administrators, like chief development officer Charles Pulliam, are collaborating with Waxahachie school and chamber leaders through The Waxahachie Project.

So what inspires Life School’s leaders to share their talents and leadership development programs with the chambers and the community? The answer is found in one of the fifteen leader profile cards developed by Life School for administrators, teachers, and students. The citizenship attribute includes “contributing to society” and encourages questions like “How can I use my strengths to serve my community?” Sharing the perspective that a rising tide raises all boats discussed in my February column, Life School leaders believe that schools and communities have to work together so that all students find a place for success. As Charles explains, “Until the dropout rates hit zero, there is room for choice in public education.”

Life School loves to invite community members into its campuses. On “Financial Literacy Day,” volunteers from the financial field teach fourth graders at every campus how to differentiate between fixed and variable costs and how to calculate a profit. Created by Life School’s finance department and math specialists, the lesson teaches two of the most commonly tested financial literacy concepts on the TEKS. More importantly, though, it instills in young students the financial literacy leadership skills critical for life. Hearing from financial professionals who are passionate about the subject creates a memorable learning opportunity for the 4th graders.

Life School also invites the business community into the learning environment through the Senior Life Projects. Every Life School senior participates in a year-long project of his or her choosing that is the culmination of leadership attributes like resilience, self-management, problem-solving, and global perspective. Students pick a “passion project” and find a mentor who is a professional in the field of study to guide their efforts. In April, the students present to a panel of judges from the community, who evaluate the students based on their effective communication, critical thinking, information literacy, and collaboration skills – all leader profiles in the Life School’s learning deck.

The time invested by community members judging the Senior Life Projects ensures that students graduate with the soft skills and leadership attributes that businesses seek in employees. By incorporating feedback from the judges into the character development and leadership programs that formed the charter for the school, Life School helps develop a future work force that matches the needs of local business. Contact Jennifer at jennifer.wilson@lifeschools.net and let her know you would love to help mold your future employees by serving as a mentor or judge for the class of 2019.

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