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What do tigers, coats, and pies have in common? They all provide inspiration for MSR’s Upper School students to “Lead4Change” and make a difference in their community and world.

Beginning this fall, MSR’s 9th and 10th grade students engaged in the Lead4Change program: “a leadership curriculum with a community service framework” with a goal of “empowering students to act, serve, and make BIG things happen” (lead4change.org). It involves students in a series of leadership lessons which culminate in the implementation of a student-led community service project. 

In late September, students in 9th and 10th grade began working in small teams to explore and brainstorm areas of need they would like to address with their community service projects. They had dedicated time available each week to collaborate on their projects, research the area of need they had chosen, brand their team, and create an action plan for their project. After two months of this work, they were ready to put their plans into action and launch their community service efforts in November. Through November and December, they dedicated themselves to the execution of their project plans and the reaching of their goals. Along the way, they exercised their leadership and collaboration skills, learned to pivot and adjust when needed, and deepened their understanding of what it means to develop and execute a real-life project.

In a Zoom presentation to school administration on Jan. 26, 2022, the students presented the results of their work, which were impressive. The students spoke of the challenges they faced as they worked to implement their projects. Whether it was COVID-19 throwing a wrench in the works or licensing issues that got in their way, the students worked together to problem solve, innovate and, ultimately, succeed. Here’s what these 9th and 10th grade students accomplished, in their own words:

Coat Drive

Our goal was to keep people warm. As it was just beginning to get cold when we began our project, we chose to collect gently-used coats and sweaters for a local shelter. Our classmates in the Upper School donated 37 coats which were delivered to a local shelter. 

—Iggy, Mehr, Gio, Anna

Food for Free

We had a great plan but then had to shift to Plan B. Our original goal of making sandwiches to feed those in need ended when we found out we needed a license to make food for distribution. We replaced that goal with a very successful food drive. The two large boxes of food we collected were donated to the local food bank. 

—Hamilton, Josh, Alyosha, and Cameron

For the Tigers
We wanted to raise $100 for the North Carolina Tiger Sanctuary in Pittsboro. We set up a PayPal account and raised $152. 

—Kasen, Noal, Lilly and Elyse

 MSR Mental Health
Our group chose mental health as our focus. We were working to build an area on the Upper School campus out by the Cycle Shack where folks could go to rest and for a break after a stressful day. We had many struggles, including the weather which never worked with us, and COVID-19 forcing our group members to stay home which fractured our progress. However, when our entire group was present, we got to work and gathered all the materials needed to build a bench around one of the trees for respite.  

—Zayn, Brendan, Cooper and Jake

 Protecting Animals One Poster at a Time (PAOPAAT)

We wanted to make a positive impact on preventing the abuse new pets can sometimes experience. Pets bought on impulse for holidays and birthdays may go to someone who loves them, but they do not understand the proper care. We wanted to share information about how to care for these pets bought on impulse. We created a website with a QR code with links to sites with tips on caring for animals. 

—Braden, Carter, Ryan, and Cristian

The Slice for Life
During the holidays, our group devised a plan to spread joy to those that could be struggling this year. With COVID-19, retirement and senior living homes began to close which led to a lack of social interaction. Nobody should be alone, especially during the holiday season. On January 15, 2022, our group members, Sunny and Zoey, set out to bake three apple, three cherry, and three green tomato pies which were delivered the same day. Although our plan changed drastically over the months, we were glad our pies gave the residents in Waltonwood some joy and happiness. We hope to do this again next year at Waltonwood. Next time, we hope to be in person and serve the pies ourselves. 

—Zoey, Sunny, Michael and Han

In the words of Dr. Maria Montessori, “The greatest gifts we can give our children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence.” Learning to lead in the service of others through programs like Lead4Change, is just one way The Montessori School of Raleigh “gifts” students with the opportunity to grow as independent, thoughtful, and engaged citizens of the world. 

More about Lead4Change here.