Practicing Leadership and Resiliency with Leadership Arlington

A group of students and an adult writing on a large sheet of white paper

What does leadership mean to you? Aspire students recently talked about this topic during a fun interactive event with Leadership Arlington. Leadership Arlington, a program for established leaders organized by the Leadership Center for Excellence, visited Aspire for their Education Day to see what education looks like for current students in the community. When they came to Aspire, they were paired with small groups of eager Aspire students.

Groups began by talking about their highs and lows of the day. One student shared, “I love the best subject in the whole world: SCIENCE.” Another student said the high point of their day was being at Aspire, because “This is my happy place.” Others shared that they had been frustrated by tests or were bored with a project they were working on. Regardless of how their days had been, all of them were excited to share. Raised hands were visible all around!

After discussing their days, Leadership Arlington participants asked students questions such as what they were proud of and what they do when something is hard. Many were also curious to know what learning during COVID had been like. Being able to go to class in pajamas was fun for a lot of students, but they also shared that they missed their friends and felt like they didn’t learn as much when they were remote. Some of them had to take care of younger siblings or didn’t have quiet places to learn, and shared that it had been a struggle to focus.

Students and Leadership Arlington participants took turns asking questions. One of the questions posed to the adults was how they dealt with challenges. Someone who works in HR described how “it’s like a puzzle, managing different personalities.” Just like group projects in school! Others talked about times that they had failed and how hard it can be to admit when you’re not okay.

By the end, each group had put together a poster about leadership. The posters included qualities of a leader, leaders that they knew, and how they could practice being a leader every day. The groups then put their public speaking skills into action by presenting in front of the classroom.

Students shared that for them, leadership meant being responsible, helping everyone succeed, helping others with their homework, respecting their classmates, standing up for themselves, and listening to what others say. One group ended their presentation by saying, all together, that “leadership is never giving up.”

Students were so engaged by this activity that several of them asked to take the posters they had worked on in groups home with them, so they could remind themselves how leaders acted – and how they were leaders in their communities!

The Leadership Center for Excellence brought certificates and pens for each student to take home with them, congratulating them on being an Aspire leader. They loved this special recognition! When one Leadership Arlington participant said “Raise your hand if you’re a leader,” every student in the classroom proudly put their hands in the air.

One of the goals of this visit was for Aspire students to not only hear from leaders in their community about their work but also to reinforce resiliency skills so that students know that failure is a necessary part of growth and eventual success. This visit also educated Leadership Arlington participants about what education and education looks and feels like for historically underserved students and where students are struggling and succeeding.

Lisa Fikes, the President and CEO of the Leadership Center for Excellence, said “Leadership Arlington’s Class of 2024 had a magnificent time connecting with the amazing 3th-8th grade leaders at Aspire! Together, they talked about the traits of a leader and the importance of resilience. We listened and learned from one another, and smiles were had by all! Thanks for hosting us, Aspire!

We’re glad that Aspire students were able to learn more about their community, share their experiences, and practice their everyday leadership skills! We know that representation matters and were thrilled to center our students in defining what leaders look like and seem themselves in a leader.