October is the best month. But it’s not just because my birthday is in October. It’s the time when we really move past the summer heat, and get those first few gumbos days. Ahhh. It’s the time of some of our great trips, Globetrek and Dauphin Island. It’s the time of Ain’t no Shade in Cade and the Spooktacular tournament and the Lower School Field Day. So much has been going on! I hesitated to write for fear that everyone would be too busy to read! Now it’s November, and I hope things have slowed down just a little. This is the second of three installments about ESA’s 40th Birthday. In August I wrote about the Past. Today, I write to you about the Present. Later this Fall I will write to you about the Future.
Look to this day!
For it is life, the very life of life.
In its brief course
Lie all the verities and realities of your existence:
The bliss of growth;
The glory of action;
The splendor of beauty;
For yesterday is but a dream,
And tomorrow is only a vision;
But today, well lived, makes every yesterday a dream of happiness,
And every tomorrow a vision of hope.
Look well therefore to this day!
Such is the Salutation of the Dawn.
Mr. Chrysler introduced us to this lovely Hindu Sanskrit prayer many years ago. So how are we living well today? I wanted to share with you a new program that we rolled out this year that many of you have already participated in. This year we established The Center for Student Servant Leadership. For the past few years we have been investing in teaching leadership skills to our upper school students. This past year, Lori Bush was accepted into the Johns Hopkins PhD program in Entrepreneurial Educational Leadership, and ESA and the CSSL will be a laboratory as part of her dissertation. The CSSL mission statement reads:
ESA graduates students who are prepared to serve as active, engaged citizens in the greater community, improving the lives of others and living with honor and integrity. ESA is committed to preparing students for leadership in a world that needs their talents, imagination, intellect and compassion.
Robert Greenleaf coined the term “servant-leader” in a 1970 essay entitled The Servant as a Leader. However, it is an idea that underpins much of the ethos of our Judeo-Christian heritage as well as the teachings of all of the major religions. Servant leadership is a philosophy in which the goal of the leader is to serve. A Servant Leader shares power, puts the needs of others first, and helps people develop and perform at their best and highest level. To that end the Center for Student Servant Leadership (CSSL) integrates direct leadership skill development by offering courses in leadership theory and practice as well as offering leadership development opportunities for students on campus (working with Student Council officers, class officers, and club leaders) and during specific retreats. Working with faculty in each division, we will identify appropriate leadership competencies for students in each division and coordinate community service and engagement opportunities for students, families and faculty. The CSSL also works with community partners to help extend ESA’s reach into areas of need as expressed in Article I of our school’s Bylaws:
“We shall provide a program for and be sensitive to the needs of children from low-income families as requested by the donor of the school property as condition of the donation, in order that the gift serve a broader purpose than the legitimate education and guidance of the privileged, and include more concretely that specific Christian value of serving those less fortunate, as well.”
It is our goal for ESA to be known on a regional and national level for this program of engaging students in meaningful community service as a way of developing the leadership skills and ethos to become active and effective citizens in our democratic society. By eventually offering programs to students outside of ESA and to teachers who want to develop their own leadership skills, we plan to become a center of excellence for this important work.
Practically, what that means is that Lori is looking for community partnerships to provide service opportunities for students (and their families) throughout the year. This is something that has been a goal of mine for years, and I’m excited to see it take shape! It can also be a little overwhelming for some. There will be lots of opportunities to participate, and I doubt that anyone can do it all. And that’s okay! There’s always more work to be done. In August we focused on childhood cancer, and had an amazing group making care packages and another group volunteering at Games of Acadiana. In September the focus was disaster relief, providing flood buckets, money from a “not-so-free-dress” day in Cade and volunteers to the St. Bernard Project, rebuilding homes in Baton Rouge. In October we focused on homelessness, November’s focus is Veterans, and December’s is the elderly. Our goal is to have one or two hands-on opportunities each month. We hope you will be able to join us for some of these opportunities. Our students are laying important groundwork and engaging in the “bliss of growth” and the “glory of action.” Areté!