Foley Middle’s journey to becoming state’s first Lighthouse Certified middle school

By Jessica Vaughn Education Editor
Posted 2/1/22

FOLEY — Five years after implementing the Leader in Me program, Foley Middle School has become the first middle school in the state of Alabama to be awarded Lighthouse status. To qualify for …

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Foley Middle’s journey to becoming state’s first Lighthouse Certified middle school

Posted

FOLEY — Five years after implementing the Leader in Me program, Foley Middle School has become the first middle school in the state of Alabama to be awarded Lighthouse status. To qualify for the certification, a school has to have the Leader in Me program implemented for at least three years, meet the standards of the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and Leader in Me, and renew their certificate every two years.
"The whole idea behind Leader in Me is that everybody can be a leader in their own way," said Principal Ashley McNair. "Our biggest focus with our kids is giving them the opportunity to find their genius, to find what it is that they can focus on and what they can be leaders in. We have lots of opportunities within the school to help our kids find their way and where their leadership skills are going to be useful, and at the end of the day just teaching them to be good people, to be good citizens. That's what we're instilling in our kids is to find their genius and that everybody can be a leader."
McNair said that students are given the opportunity to apply for multiple positions at the school including office helpers, library helpers, Peer Helpers and the student Lighthouse team. All roles give students the chance to be a leader, she said. Teachers also offer leadership roles to students within their classrooms.
After participating in the program for a number of years, McNair said FMS was ready to begin the Lighthouse review.
"For that process, we basically had to put together a digital binder that showed our journey from day one to that point in time, and that goes to a committee for review," said McNair. "Then they sent two Lighthouse review members down to spend the day with us, and they met with parents, students, teachers, and our Lighthouse core team, they went into classrooms and watched lessons being taught, and then they put together a review that went back to the review committee. The committee puts it all together and then either awards the Lighthouse certification or not."
To the school's excitement, they were notified that they had received certification in November 2021. McNair surprised students and faculty with the news during a fall sports pep rally.
"The really neat thing about Leader in Me and the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is that it's very much an individual journey as well as a whole school journey, and the whole idea of how these habits really affect you as an individual and the values that they instill," McNair said. "You kind of go back and reassess your values and learn things like putting first things first and what are your big rocks for the day."
McNair said moving forward, the next steps will be to act as a model school to other schools looking to enter into the Leader in Me program and those looking to begin the process towards Lighthouse certification. Also, she looks forward to continuing the program within Foley Middle School.
"We'll continue to tweak things here and there, to always make them better and really shine our light," she said. "That's where the lighthouse model idea comes into play, the concept of shining that light and spreading it over a wide area. We know that if we can instill these values in these students now, it will filter out into the community in the long run, because our students will be the adults in our community in just a few short years. If you make those changes while in school, then you can go out and better your community."
For more information on Foley Middle School, visit www.bcbe.org/foleyms.

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