6th Graders Participate in Leadership Academy Retreat

6th grader leaders at the Leadership Academy Retreat, Feb. 1, 2019.

Twenty-four 6th graders from local elementary schools participated in the Leadership Academy Retreat at Marshfield Medical Center on Friday, part of a year-long program in which students cultivate skills to become good role models.

First organized by a Leadership Marshfield group six years ago, the retreat continues to be a fun, interactive day of activities designed to teach kids about good choices, working well with others, and communication skills.

Students are first nominated in 5th grade by peers and teachers who identify them as leaders, regardless of how well they do in school.

6th graders prepare to discuss their ideas for the future.

“They are the people that other students look up to. If they’re already leaders, we want to make them be positive leaders,” said Sam Warp, one of the original Leadership Marshfield team members who continue to help put on the retreat. “That’s the goal of the day – make good choices.”

The theory is if student leaders are setting a good example, others will follow.

One of the activities had students write out their life goals on squares of toilet paper – when they’ll graduate, get married, have kids, and what their future job will be. But if a bad decision is made, those goals could be cut short. To demonstrate this, one of the rolls was ripped down the middle.

The visual makes for a more impactful lesson than could be achieved from a simple pep talk. It’s also more fun for the kids, who get creative about their life plans.

Other retreat activities included a “Family Feud” style leadership game where students learned about what their family, friends, and teachers might expect of them; a card game to teach that everyone’s role is important; and a panel to ask adults questions about life passions, how to conquer anxiety, and what skills help to make great leaders.

The retreat is one of the many activities students participate in throughout the year. The leadership program, utilizing the book “7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens,” begins with a two-week academy in August for young leaders to learn skills and select a project to complete.

“They think about what is a problem in their schools, and how they want to help solve it,” said founder Brenda Baur, a teacher with the Gifted and Talented program at the Marshfield School District.

Projects might include fundraisers, partnering with local nonprofits, or sprucing up the playground. The schools also team up: A monthly can collection which began about eight years ago has raised $7,000 for the Wildwood Zoo so far. To encourage their peers to bring in cans, the students leaders don can costumes or setup a Plinko game that can be played after making a donation.

At the end of the year, students “graduate” by presenting on their project through a creative skit, like pretending to be on a talk show. They discuss the ups and downs of the process, and what they learned.

Ultimately, the goal of the program is about kids being role models for their peers.

“Teachers can say all we want about respect, responsibility and safety, but when these kids are saying it and showing it, that’s when the kids really listen,” said Baur.

Student leaders for 2018-19 are Jenny Schneider, Payton Bremer, Evalyn O’Brien, Alex Heeg, Joshua Peters, Gabrielle Gayle, Faris Haleem, Devyn LeMoine, Evan Nanstad, Aleigha Hainz, Eli Kruger, Bailey Conner, Ava Fletty, Fiona Neal, Antonio Melchor Avalos, Courtney Krenn, Lucy Luedtke, Ean Sautebin, Kailyn Kurth, Brooke Begotka, Josh Steinbach, Owen Griesbach, Karsyn Miller, and Lydia Schecklman.