Tullahoma High School sophomores and juniors will have an opportunity to show the community what they’re made of this year thanks to a partnership with Chick-fil-A.

The high school has partnered with the restaurant for a new leadership program, the Chick-fil-A Leader Academy, according to THS Assistant Principal Greg English.

According to Chick-fil-A, the leader academy is a leadership program designed for high school students. It combines “leader labs” with student-created “impact projects” that benefit the community.

“Chick-fil-A Leader Academy reimagines high school leadership,” the program information states, “engaging students with in-classroom leader labs to develop the skills they will use for student-led community impact projects.”

The THS program is being sponsored by the Tullahoma Chick-fil-A. English said when Tullahoma Chick-fil-A representatives approached him with the idea, he was enthralled with it.

“I’ve heard about it before, and I was really excited when they offered because I’d heard only great things about it,” he said.

The most recent addition to the Tullahoma Band program, Lisa Burden, had facilitated the program at her previous school, English said, so she was able to give a glowing recommendation of the program.

The program will last seven months, English said, with after school meetings taking place once a month for participating students to receive special lessons from a set curriculum.

That curriculum, according to the Chick-fil-A Leader Academy Facebook page, encompasses subjects such as servant leadership, teamwork, communication, innovation and more. Each month’s lesson helps drive the student participants to create “impact through action.”

“It’s all planned,” English said. “There’s videos for me to show; there’s scripted lessons for me to show.”

Though English has his curriculum guidelines to follow, the program mostly hinges on student innovation and leadership, he said.

“Mostly it’s geared toward impact projects,” he said, where the students come up with a community service project that benefits either the school or the community at large.

“They have to come up with and plan them,” English said.

Coffee County Central High School is also participating in the program this year.


Not unfamiliar

The Leader Academy, English said, has many of the same characteristics as an existing group at the high school.

“We started, a few years ago, a student-teacher advisory committee – STAC,” he said. “It’s kind of the same idea, but it’s a perpetual group.”

Though both groups seek to improve student leadership, STAC is more of an “advisory team,” English said.

Through STAC, administrative officials meet with student leaders in order to get their input on certain school items.

The leader academy, however, is more of a set course.

“It’s a one-time deal,” English said. “They can only do it once.”

That doesn’t mean students who take the class this year can’t be of assistance to future classes, he added.

If, for instance, a junior who completes the course wants to come back next year and help out that year’s class in an “advisory capacity,” they are more than welcome to do so.

They just can’t go through the program again.


Accepting applications

The school is currently in the process of accepting applications to the program from any interested sophomores and juniors.

Choosing these two classes was purposefully designed, English said. The current senior class is focusing its attention on college or the workforce and preparing to leave the community, he said, while the freshman class is still new to the THS community.

“Seniors are about to leave us,” he said. “Freshman haven’t been here long enough. We want them to get acclimated to the school and find their place.”

Sophomores and juniors have a better understanding of the needs of the school and community while also having more time to make the largest impact, he said.

English said he’s also hoping a large cross section of the student body will apply.

“We don’t want just student council kids,” he said. “We don’t want just band leadership kids. We want a good cross section of the school.”

His hope is that students from all walks of life will want to try the program out in this first year – even students who may not necessarily belong to any particular group already.

“I do hope to get a good representation of all the groups in the school, like athletes and fine arts [students] and those who aren’t in groups,” he said.


An opportunity

No matter who applies to participate, English said he believes the program will be one more way to try to change the culture of the school.

“I think it’s going to be a great thing,” English said. “If nothing else, it’s going to be an opportunity to get kids together. They’re working towards a common goal.”

One of his passion projects is trying to “evolve” the culture of the high school to one where students feel represented.

“I think a school where the kids get to make some of the rules and choices is a school where they want to come and they feel like their voices are heard,” he said. “My hope is we can create something where students have more skin in the game. This is their school, where they have something they care enough about that they’re looking to the freshman class like, ‘Can this class carry on the legacy we’ve created here?’”

The first class will be limited to just 30 students, according to English. All those interested in participating in the Leader Academy should visit www.chickfilaleaderacademy.com/apply. Select Tullahoma High School before filling out the application.

The deadline for applications is Tuesday, Sept. 17. The program will kick off Tuesday, Sept. 24.

Erin McCullough may be reached at emccullough@tullahomanews.com