Miya Vitale may only be in kindergarten, but she's already developed a strong sense of priorities.
In front of a crowd of teachers, staff and parents gathered in the library at Fox Hollow Elementary School on Jan. 26, Vitale confidently outlined her personal philosophy on an average school day. Sure, she finds time for all of the typical pastimes one would expect from a normal kindergartener – friends, play, a bit of computer time.
But Vitale was quick to point out that she works hard to put "first things first."
"Homework is more important than other things," she said simply.
Vitale, along with a group of about a dozen fellow Fox Hollow students from all grades, testified to the powerful effect of the "Leader in Me" program at the school, an initiative that incorporates lessons first spelled out Stephen Covey's popular self-help book, "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People." The "Leader In Me" revolves around a version of the book tailored specifically toward kids.
The lessons at the core of the program revolve around being proactive, having a clear goal in mind, putting first things first, maintaining a positive attitude and paying attention to health, happiness and personal balance.
According to the staff at Fox Hollow, the program has helped students from K-5 turn in to leaders. The event held at the school on Jan. 26 was designed to illustrate the clear impact of seven simple steps.
"We teach the seven habits here, interwoven with our own Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports system," said Fox Hollow Principal Joleta Gallozzi. "This is a day to open up to the community and show them what we've done."
In addition to speaking firsthand to student guides and touring classrooms, visiting community members had the chance to hear testimony from students of different grades and backgrounds, all of whom spoke to the value of incorporating simple but powerful lessons in to their everyday routines.
"The program has helped me to be in charge of myself," said fifth-grader Kara Jenkins. "I need to make sure that I know what needs to be done."
That step may seem like an obvious and critical ingredient for success to many. Even so, having a program that spells out such measures has made a world of difference for the Fox Hollow community.
"They're taking more ownership," Gallozzi said. "Students are learning to better interact with each other and be responsible … They're able to tell you what their goals are."