There are some positive life experiences you wish you could bottle up and share with others.
That was the case during a recent visit to Vance High School.
Students from Vance High and four other schools recently worked together to pack nutritious meals for local children and families in need.
The excitement was palpable as the students worked to package food for Second Harvest Food Bank.
About 150 students from Vance, Independence, Providence and Rocky River high schools took part in the Chick-fil-A Leader Academy, a national high school leadership program. The program also included students invited from Hawthorne High.
Thirty students are selected from each school to participate in the program year-round. The goal is to build leaders and make an impact through action.
Vance High has integrated the leadership program into its Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools curriculum.
Audrey-Lee Bost and Sarah Rush teach the leadership course at Vance. “This is the first year that we partnered with the Chick-fil-A Leader Academy, but Chik-fil-A has been huge in terms of helping schools in the Governor’s Village,” Bost said.
Bost said she got goosebumps while watching the students pack the meals: “This is a program where everyone benefits,” she said. “For our program to directly impact hungry families in Charlotte means a lot.”
The contents of the packets students were making were lentil beans, rice, dehydrated vegetables and pink Himalayan salt, for lentil casserole. Each student had a specific assignment to complete the task.
Students and other volunteers were divided into two groups; while one group packaged meals, the other enjoyed a free Chick-fil-A lunch.
Before students started packing the meals, they listened to short motivational video clips produced by Chick-fil-A Leader Academy. Some of the messages included sayings like, “It’s less about what you can do – but more about what you can do for someone else.” Another message was, “Trade ‘I’ for ‘you.’ ”
The seven-month leadership class is designed to teach valuable leadership lessons, and all students participate in projects. Bost says she has seen a transformation in students already.
Through one project, Vance students read to students at Nathaniel Alexander Elementary School.
Omar Baker, a senior at Vance and a quarterback on the football team, lights up when he talks about his experience reading to kindergarteners. “A lot of them are real smart,” he said. “Actually, it makes me want to be a mentor or start my own program one day.” Baker said it’s touching to see the effect of reading on the faces of the elementary students: “I always like to give back to the community. I know how I grew up.”
Baker also was one of the students preparing meals for the Second Harvest Food Bank.
The leadership academy partnered with a group called Feeding Children Everywhere for the project to benefit Second Harvest. The project was such a success that the groups surpassed the goal of 30,000 packets, finishing with 39,100.
This was accomplished even though they were short of participants, although Charlotte City Councilman Greg Phipps was on hand to help the students.
Jocelyn Chadwick, another student in the Vance leadership class, said, “It’s so much more than a class. It makes you a different person.”
Chadwick said she knows firsthand what it feels like to be a recipient of charity from the community, and that she is committed to helping others.
“People look down at Vance because of its reputation, but there is good here, and so much untapped potential,” she said. “If this program was open to more students, we would reach more children in and out of Charlotte.”
Bost, who is Chadwick’s teacher, said, “Our students were empowered through this opportunity and they all felt good to give back.
“If you give teens the opportunity to give back they will embrace the concept and take it full circle … with unlimited possibilities.”