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Woodbridge and Stonewall students get leadership lessons from local fast food eateries

Students at Stonewall Jackson High School and Woodbridge High School are participating this year for the first time in a Chick-fil-A Leader Academy. The national high school leadership program engages students with an online Leader Lab exploring leadership themes such as visions and values, servant leadership, teamwork, innovation, communication and impact.

“This is a good opportunity to instill good values and start something that would be impactful for years to come,” said Jeremy Smith, owner and operator of the Chick-fil-A on Sudley Manor Drive, the partner for the Stonewall Jackson High Leader Academy.

The program at both schools began with a kick-off activity last fall. Jill Crayne, one of four teacher facilitators at Stonewall Jackson High, said the Academy, which includes 25 students, was assigned a difficult task.

“Chick-fil-A sent us a huge box for meal prep,” said Crayne. “The students had 45 minutes to pack 100 meals that were sent back to Chick-fil-A to be distributed to the needy.”

Crayne added that the Stonewall Jackson High students were also involved in raising $460 for Joy Jars for the Jessie Rees Foundation. Joy Jars are stuffed with toys and sent to children fighting cancer.

The Woodbridge Leader Academy is sponsored by the Chick-fil-A of Lake Ridge, which is owned an operated by Luis Hevia. They have also been very involved in the community.

“In December, our students put together baskets and made holiday cards, and then one afternoon after school, we went to The Tribute at the Glen to spread holiday cheer with music, treats and gift-giving,” said Cynthia Treichler, one of three teacher facilitators at Woodbridge High School. The Academy at Woodbridge includes 28 students.

Victor Ortiz, a 12th grade student in the Woodbridge Academy, said he really enjoys participating in the community. “Participating in the Do-Good December project was an opportunity to help out in the community, and it was the first time I did it as part of a school group. I wanted to join a club that would allow me to use the leadership skills I’ve learned in classes to make an impact on the community.”

Layan Sameh Wahdan, a 10th grade student at Stonewall Jackson High, believes membership in the Academy will help her improve many skills important to her future. “When I heard about Chick-fil-A Leader Academy from my teacher, I decided to do a little more research about the organization and its goals,” she said.  “I found that the academy helped foster the skills I wished to develop, including leadership, communication, and critical and creative thinking skills.  I also learned about the ways the leader academy challenged students to work as a team to positively impact the community.  I believe that the academy can help me improve my personal character, be a role model, team player, and become an active part of my community.”

Although students in the Leader Academy are involved in projects and learning throughout the year, the program focuses on the Impact Project. The students are currently involved in planning this project.

“At first, they decided on having the fire and police department play a basketball game against each other,” Crayne said. “Then, it evolved into a bracket type event. So, now they are going to talk to the police and fire departments to get a team together, and add anyone else who wants to put together a team. We are going to have short, 10-minute games with winners advancing to the final.”

She said the students will have the opportunity to operate the concession stand, sell advertisements for programs, and work with area businesses on providing T-shirts. Proceeds will be donated to the fire and police departments.

The Woodbridge Leader Academy continues to finalize details for their Impact Project, which will more than likely include a school beautification/clean-up day. Through the Chick fil-A Foundation, high schools may apply for microgrants to help fund the school’s Impact Project.

Although the Leader Academy is new this school year, it is already positively impacting the students. “It has helped my leadership and people skills,” said Alexis Sharp, a student at Woodbridge High. It has allowed me to work with people and not be afraid to be a leader.”

Wahden agrees. “Since joining the Chick-Fil-A Leader Academy, I noticed a change in my character right away,” she said “I began actively looking for ways to help others, whether by helping a classmate, picking up litter, or by helping organize a fundraiser or drive. I also noticed that I enjoy challenging myself academically even more. Chick-fil-A Leader Academy has positively impacted me by giving me the opportunity to understand that thinking, teamwork, and leadership skills are not just necessary to be successful in a work environment, but they also make life in a community of diverse people more enjoyable and meaningful.”

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