At Stuart Hall we speak frequently about the merits of our project-based academic program. Through direct experience and reflection, students develop real-world knowledge and skills that prepare them for college and life. Of these skills, one of the most important is leadership.
The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning, an organization that supports educators with research on social and emotional development, has discovered that providing students with leadership opportunities promotes the interpersonal skills that are highly coveted in today's workforce. "The only way to learn how to lead is through experience," shares Staunton Campus Director Jason Coady, "I compare it to athletics. You can read books about soccer, watch soccer games, and discuss soccer with others, but that doesn't mean you can play soccer. The only way you learn how to play is by playing - try, make mistakes, have successes, reflect, learn more, practice, and then play again. Leadership is the same way. You have to try to motivate others in order to discover what does and doesn't work. You have to organize an event to learn what it takes and how to make it all come together."
On the Staunton campus, there are several examples of how we are helping develop the leaders of tomorrow:
- Lunar New Year Celebration: each year, students organize and publicize this fun event. They cook delicious Asian food, share traditional games and arts and crafts, and put on a talent show. This past Saturday, our STU community came together to enjoy this festive day.
- Studio 161: This is a student-led rehearsal and performance activity where students run lines, practice scenes, and otherwise get involved in refining their performance skills. Last Friday, the group shared what they are working on with their peers.
- Black History Month: To help us celebrate Black History month, the Black Student Union is providing either a thought for the day or a short presentation. Some of February's chapel time will also be spent on black history. This group is advised by Chaplain Connor, but all of the activities are organized by the students.
"We want student-led events because this is how students learn to lead," continues Mr. Coady. "But just organizing the event isn't enough. We have to reflect on both the successes and the failures to learn from them. As adults, this means we have to let go and trust the students, knowing they may not do something the way we would, and that they might ultimately fail. However, those experiences and those failures are the best way to learn - as long as we support them through it, reflect on it afterwards, and encourage them to try again."