New Danville Campus Principal Eloy Rodriguez was studying Dr. Stephen R. Covey’s book, The Leader in Me, when the idea hit him:  Let’s develop student leaders here at New Danville!

The Leader in Me is the story of a growing number of extraordinary schools around the world who are preparing a generation of children to truly lead their own lives and meet the challenges and opportunities of the 21st Century.

Rodriguez said, “The book motivated me to give our students the opportunity to develop and use leadership skills in our school.”

For the New Danville Campus, Rodriguez wanted to encourage Covey’s “seven habits of highly effective people” that were adapted for children. He envisioned that BLAZER BUDDIESTMwould be students who could “live out these habits visibly for other students to see.”

Rodriguez started out with five carefully selected fifth-grade students for the first quarter of the year. The students received some training that included role-playing to physically demonstrate and practice what was expected of them.

“Ultimately, the BLAZER BUDDIESTM program is designed to build student leaders that put the life and teachings of Jesus into practice throughout the school day,” Rodriguez said.

Some of their tangible tasks were: helping in PreK and kindergarten classes, making morning announcements on the intercom, greeting students as they came to school in the morning, greeting visitors and helping at school events and programs. “The parents loved seeing them up front at events,” said Rodriguez.

Along with training, the BLAZER BUDDIESTM received bright gold T-shirts with a special logo.

Although at first not every fifth-grader was interested in being BLAZER BUDDIESTM, by the fourth quarter the whole class wanted to do it, and eventually each one qualified and got the chance to wear the bright gold T-shirt.

The highly-visible BLAZER BUDDIESTM caught the attention of Assistant Superintendent Miles Yoder, who recommended that the program be instituted throughout the LMS system, where it will be tailored for each campus.

“The implementation will be unique to each campus,” explained Judi Mollenkof, principal of the Locust Grove and Kraybill campuses. At Locust Grove, all sixth-graders will have the opportunity to be BLAZER BUDDIESTM, while at the Kraybill Campus, the role will go to all fifth-graders.

Regardless of the differences in details, Mollenkof is trusting thatBLAZER BUDDIESTM will provide the kind of life-changing leadership opportunities that Mr. Rodriguez’s fifth-graders experienced this past school year.