Student voice is an essential part of a Progressive school — and certainly St. Francis students never disappoint on that score. (With an office adjacent to the Commons Room, some days I hear a bit more student voice than I might like!) We foster student voices in myriad ways each day within the classroom, particularly with our focus on discussions, but we also want to mindfully promote it in the context of leadership. Leaders may be born, in the sense that some students more naturally embrace the challenge, but I would argue that leadership is more so learned and is not an easy practice, especially in the world of adolescent peer relationships. We strive to foster leadership in a number of ways that stretch beyond the classroom: in extracurriculars, our School Committee (student council), our discipline system, and the Wyvern Retreat Program.

In some cases (for example, the Climate Club, Encouragement Club, and Anime Club), extracurriculars at St. Francis were created and are entirely run by students. In others, such as our DEI groups and athletic teams, students take on roles as president/chair/captain for one or more years, working on programming, group morale, etc. with the help of an adult moderator/coach. Recent accomplishments of students in DEI leadership roles include a student-facilitated final week to Black History Month, themed poems for Women’s History Month, and attendance by four students at the NAIS Student Diversity Leadership Conference. 

Our School Committee recently conceived of and sponsored a Spirit Week, as well as an advisee rock-paper-scissors tournament. The elected seniors are taking the lead on planning some festivities for their upcoming Senior Class Adventure Day. The sophomore representatives oversee their grade’s running of the Wyvern Store: taking inventory, restocking, making the schedule for work shifts. The elected group as a whole are doing some work this spring on the goals and responsibilities of elected representatives, both with their individual grades and for the larger student body, and considering a name change for themselves as an organization. The School Committee has also been considering this spring — and will soon share with their classmates for feedback — some changes to the discipline system. Originally proposed by one of the sophomore representatives, who then met with Alexandra and me, the new scheme would replace the Disciplinary Review Board (a randomly-selected peer jury) with an elected Student Court that would be able to more thoughtfully consider offenses and consequences, including restorative practices. We look forward to hearing the input of the students on this potential change and love the leadership opportunity it presents.  

The Wyvern Retreat Program unfortunately had to go on hiatus for 2020-21 but we are excited for its return next fall! One of the five main goals of the program is developing leadership skills. The sophomore and junior years are particularly focused on leadership. In 10th grade, students go on an Outward Bound experience during which they learn and live out the mantra, “We are crew, not passengers.” In 11th grade, they build off this work and other concepts of leadership, such as building trust with others within a group, putting ideas into action, how it feels to lead and to follow, and how their own core values impact their lives, choices, and leadership. Ultimately, we hope that over four years, the Wyvern Retreat Program and the other opportunities for leadership at various levels empower students as leaders, decision-makers, and good citizens of the SFS (and larger) community.