DeRidder elementary students attend leadership course in nation’s capital

<p class="p1">Four DeRidder elementary students took a first step in becoming future leaders in their community by attending the Envision Leadership Program course in Washington, D.C., this summer.</p><p class="p1">Madilynn Jenkins, Jaida Henry, Hunter Roberts and Zane Lewis, all 11, were selected by Pinewood Elementary Assistant Principal Stephanne Spikes and teacher Monica Willis to attend the course to hone their budding leadership skills.</p><p class="p1">“These kids are all such born leaders that this course was perfect for them,” Willis said. “Each one of them is intrinsically motivated and always puts their best efforts forward because they believe the reward is a job well done.”</p><p class="p1">Willis said the program teams students from various states together so they can experience working with a diverse group of individuals.</p><p class="p1">“This course put children of different backgrounds together — not to have one leader and the rest followers, but to allow one group of leaders learn how to work together towards a common goal,” she said.</p><p class="p1">While each of the students said they were nervous before setting out to D.C., they all agreed that meeting new people and learning about one another was one of the greatest rewards of the course.</p><p class="p1">“I’ve been to Washington, D.C., before, but this was a new experience with new people and it really showed me how important it is to be respectful of others and how to lead while still accepting other people’s opinions,” Jenkins said.</p><p class="p1">For Henry, who envisions her future as a teacher, she said the course showed her how to constructively guide others without making the mistake of forcing them onto a path.</p><p class="p1">“I think what is really important as a leader is that when you lead others, you do it without being bossy. You have to be encouraging,” she said.</p><p class="p1">For the boys, touring the museums and observing the monuments stuck out to them as some of their most memorable moments during the course.</p><p class="p1">“I really liked learning about past leaders and some of the mistakes that they made, so that when I become a leader I know what mistakes not to make,” Lewis said.</p><p class="p1">The valuable course came at a hefty price for the students’ families, but Henry’s mother, Cassie Henry, said there was no question as to whether her daughter would attend.</p><p class="p1">“From the minute we found out she was accepted, it was ‘OK let’s do this. Let’s make this work,’ without a doubt,” Henry said.</p><p class="p1">Hunter’s mother, Jill Roberts, said each student utilized fundraising to make the course a reality, and the support of the community was overwhelming.</p><p class="p1">Willis said local churches, organizations and businesses all donated.</p><p class="p1">“This is what happens when you have a supporting community, because that is what it took to get these students to D.C.,” Willis said. “These students and their parents worked hard to raise the money for the trip because they knew how important it was and the community answered that call for help.”</p><p class="p1">A teacher for 16 years, Willis said she has selected students for the course for the past 15 years. Those students, she said, have all gone on to have academic and career success.</p><p class="p1">“I truly hold each one of my students in my heart, and to see them succeed is the greatest reward for me. This is why I love teaching, because I am really seeing the future sitting right in front of me.”</p>

<p class="p1"><strong>‘These kids are all such born leaders that this course was perfect for them. Each one of them is intrinsically motivated and always puts their best efforts foward because they believe the reward is a job well done.’</strong>

<p class="p3"><strong>Monica Willis</strong>

<p class="p4">Pinewood Elementary School teacher

””<p class="p1">DeRidder Pinewood Elementary students, from left, Madilynn Jenkins, Jaida Henry, Hunter Roberts and Zane Lewis, recently returned from attending a course in Washington D.C. this summer where they learned valuable skills to become future leaders in their community.</p>Pamela SleezerBeauregard and Vernon Parish Reporter
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