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Ontario Trillium Foundation
Three Year Cumulative Leadership Development

The Community Builders Youth Leadership Institute is a program that takes elementary students through three years of leadership development in the areas of inclusion, non-violent conflict resolution, and peer support listening.

The young leaders begin the program when they are in grade 4 or 5. Each year they attend a very full experiential four-day leadership institute with students from 4 to 5 other schools in their area. Teams of 8-10 students attend with lead teachers from their school. When they return to school, they take leadership in a variety of ways. Their first project is to present student-led workshops to the students at their school. When the workshops have finished, they work together with the lead teachers from their school to design and implement other projects. 

The Results:

  • Student leaders have successful leadership experiences as active citizens in their school communities;
  • Stakeholders (other students, parents, teachers) are pulled in to the process of making positive changes in their school environments;
  • Anti-bullying and inclusion needs in schools are addressed by the students;
  • Initiatives to end bullying, racism and other oppressions are implemented by the students;
  • Students acquire lifelong skills in the areas of leadership, inclusion and equity.

IN THE FIRST YEAR

Step 1. Learn About Community Builders

  • We meet with teachers, administrators and parents to outline our program.
  • A school decides to invite the CB team to share our principles and ideas in an introductory format.

Step 2. The Friends and Allies Workshop

  • A CB team presents a half-day experiential program to individual classes (Grades 4 or 5). Our ideas are introduced through drama, discussion and music: understanding that everyone is in our "community circle", taking pride in our diverse backgrounds, seeing the goodness in each other ("The Heart of the Child"), being powerful listeners, learning how to stop someone who is being mean without kicking them out of the circle, and more.

  • Community Builders trainers and classroom teachers identify eight to ten students who have shown particular interest in CB concepts during the "Friends and Allies" workshop. Students are selected with the goal of forming a diverse team of positive young potential leaders for the school.

Step 3. The Friends and Allies 40 minute Assembly

  • Led by the Community Builders trainers and the newly-formed team of  Grade 4/5 students who are just beginning their leadership training, this is a  fun, accessible and highly participatory in-school assembly for Grades K- 3 featuring CB concepts through skits and music.

Step 4. INSTITUTE 1: Introduction to Building an Inclusive School Community

  • Teams of eight to ten Grade 4/5 students, along with a Lead/Support Teacher and Parent(s), travel to a central location (four or five elementary schools send teams).
  • CB trainers guide the group to explore how racism, sexism, boys' oppression, classism and other oppressions as well as pressures to belong and be "cool" affect them and their classmates.
  • They practice strategies for being an ally, caring for the victim without excluding the person who is being mean.
  • Student leaders are taught presentation skills and develop confidence to go back and lead our "Everyone Counts, Everyone Belongs" workshop on how to be an ally to grades 2-4.
  • CB team trainers follow-up by visiting the teams of students in their schools before their first workshop presentation. CB trainers also support Lead Teachers and Parents through pre- and post- Institute meetings, e-mail and phone communication.               

IN THE SECOND YEAR

Step 5. INSTITUTE 2: Peer Mediation and Peer Support

  • The same group of forty to sixty young leaders, now in Grades 5 and 6,  reconvene with their Lead Teachers;
  • They learn to listen to peers who are experiencing challenges academically, emotionally or socially.
  • Students begins to understand how people internalize  mistreatment then act out
  • Students learn skills to creatively help people when they're 'hooked' in conflict
  • Student leaders learn to present Positive Power of Peers back at school, a participatory  workshop focused on dealing with conflict aimed at Grades 5 - 6.
  • In the second year, Community Builder leaders also act as mentors for the new team of students who are beginning Institute 1.
  • Next, Institute 3

THE THIRD YEAR (varies according to school board)

INSTITUTE 3: School Leadership Initiative

  • In this final year, the same 40-60 leaders from year before, now in Grade 7-8  move to next level of leadership to learn about 'action research.'
  • The students look with leader's eyes at their school community.
  • Building on the skills and awareness they have developed in their first two years as Community Builders, they choose a challenge facing their school related to inclusion or social justice that they would like to play a positive role in addressing.
  • With the support of their teachers and the Community Builders staff, they design and implement their leadership project.

GROWING IMPACT ON THE SCHOOL CULTURE
Each year a new group of young lpeople begins the three-year leadership development process. Institutes 1, 2 and 3 run concurrently in each school board.  As the number of experienced young Community Builders in each school grows, they begin to have a growing impact on the school culture.  With this consistent expansion of the program we believe that more and more students are learning community building concepts that are key to creating safe and inclusive schools.

Lead teachers are assigned to each team of students, and Community Builders provides workshops for the teachers before and after the Institutes to prepare them to support the students.  This way the cadre of trained and committed teachers in each school continues to grow each year.

The sense of confidence, responsibility and teamwork that is fostered in all three years of the program helps students develop the skills and attitudes that promote involved and effective leadership in high school and beyond. It acts as an antidote to the alienation that so many youth struggle with.

Also See: Shorter-Term CB Programs