Students warming up community with second annual coat drive; ’Leader in Me’ program continues to evolve, WES hoping to help those affected by Elba flood

By Jan Murray

Students warming up community with second annual coat drive; ’Leader in Me’ program continues to evolve, WES hoping to help those affected by Elba flood
Cold weather has finally arrived for Winter 2016 and Windham Elementary School sixth graders are working hard to make sure bodies and hearts in the Wiregrass are warm.As part of WES’s ongoing process to create leaders, the entire sixth grade class of 82 students, along with teachers Bethany Jett, Jacquelin Hines, Victoria Basso and Tracey Odom, have successfully launched a winter coat drive for the second year in a row. The students hope to collect 200 or more coats by week’s end to give to those in need area-wide, said Jett, the drive coordinator.All grade levels of the school have projects as part of the leadership model being used at WES. Sixth grade chose to do a coat drive. Jett said, “This coat drive is one way that we knew that when the temperatures started dropping that there would be someone in our area without a coat. We chose a coat drive because we knew it was one (effort) where people could drop off (items)...We could give back to the area and surrounding areas.”She said between 200 and 300 coats were collected last year and that students in need within the Daleville school system, as well as local community coat closets, were the recipients of winter wear.As of press time, the students had received about 155 coat/jacket donations. Already, Jett said, about 15 jackets have been given to students in need as well as an adult in Dothan who needed a jacket or coat.“I saw excitement from the man at the Dothan Rescue Mission. He had never had a leather jacket before,” said Jett. “The one he received was in perfect condition and he just really felt blessed having something that new and that nice given to him. I’ve also seen kids overjoyed to have a jacket or coat for their brother or sister, and it just goes to show you that a coat is not just a simple thing; it warms someone’s heart, not just the body.”Jett said she is making contact with officials from Elba and other organizations within the Daleville area that may have contact with others in need. It is important, she said, for the jackets and coats to not go for resale but rather be given to those who need them—adults and children. She added that the quality of what is being donated has really resonated with the students. Many new items have been donated along with gently used items. More, for both adults and children, is needed.WES has been practicing the “Leader in Me” model—a transformational process aimed at creating leaders—for more than four years now. The concept is based on the late Stephen R. Covey’s best-selling self-help and business guide, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.  Covey also authored The Leader in Me: How Schools and Parents Around the World Are Inspiring Greatness, One Child at a Time. Covey adapted the model for elementary schools starting in 1999, with a school in Raleigh, N.C.Principal Christopher Mitten said, “Basically, The Leader in Me is a process that is continuously evolving. The seven habits have become a part of the fabric at our school. On the surface it is about the habits…we are in the process of really taking a deeper dive into the habits and the life changing meaning of living by them. Our students know the habits. They understand the habits.“We have seen such a remarkable change in our students as they learn to be leaders. Activities such as the coat drive are an extension of this. Not only do we take care of ourselves and learn to be leaders in a school environment, but there is a service element that we take care of others as well. It’s all part of trying to develop the whole child, not just the academic piece, but the whole child.”Mitton added that as a part of the leadership program, “Each grade level is undertaking some sort of service project…We have collected canned goods for needy families, we are constantly collecting recyclables as well…The coat drive is an effort to provide for our community.  We have a lot of students with a lot of needs and activities such as this help to teach that we not only take care of ourselves but we also take care of each other. I am extremely proud of how our school works to be active in the community and to help others. Many of our students have a lot of needs of their own but they still find a way to help others. That is truly remarkable.”Jett said if anyone knows of a need for coats in addition to Elba and perhaps area nursing homes, to contact her“This overall project has instilled a lot of value in my students and it’s showed them that there is more than just receiving. There is beauty in giving,” said Jett.
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