By Sue Moore
Rachel King gains inspiration from her Vicksburg High School’s Aim Higher students every day. They are excited about the work they are doing, she told the Vicksburg School Board at its January meeting. “I want to do more to help them but I don’t have enough time in the day to give them. There is no limit to what they could do if they had more than just their club involvement.”
A course in leadership was King’s answer. She has designed the curriculum to reflect the work of the PeaceJam Foundation, an international organization of young leaders committed to positive change in themselves, their communities, and the world. They get inspiration from the 14 Nobel Peace Laureates who serve on the board and actively pass on the spirit, skills, and wisdom they embody.
Aim Higher will now have a one-credit elective Leadership class that meets for the whole year, due to King’s inspiration. They will learn how to become effective leaders in their community, their country and on a global scale. The focus is on leadership through service to others while using the PeaceJam curriculum.
“The leadership students will be able to see the value of service and understand the need to effective leadership to enact effective change,” King’s proposal said. “The skills they learn and the experiences they will have in the course will carry through all aspects of their lives, helping them both in and out of school. It will build a foundation for future service and leadership roles after high school,” she said.
Students will become community advocates by seeing how they can work toward impactful and sustainable change. Each will design an individual service project that aligns with a student’s personal mission statement. They will become mentors to other students and community members to ensure sustainability of their efforts, King wrote. Effective leadership, positive team collaborations, service to others, research and data collection, community engagement and project planning are key components in the course.
King’s daughter, MacKenzie, a Vicksburg High School graduate, was King’s inspiration to start the Aim Higher club and now the leadership class. As a student at Western Michigan University in 2018, King was named a Trailblazer by the Haworth College of Business. MacKenzie became a mentor to the Vicksburg students. She has done considerable volunteer work abroad. She just returned from working in refugee camps in Greece. MacKenzie is all about humanitarian work, her mom said. She brought two other VHS grads, Casey Hall and Madelyn Geiger, with her to Aim Higher to help with mentoring. They are now in the global leaders’ program at WMU.
King has about 25 students now who meet regularly as an after-school club. About 140 are in the club she started last year in the fall. They can come and go as their outside activities demand.
They did a dog wash to raise funds last spring. It’s all student driven on what needs to be done to volunteer. One person in the group, whose mother works at Wyndham West in Kalamazoo, knew the seniors who lived there could use some help. They have been going there one day a week to lend a hand.
The club memberss will attend the Great Lakes PeaceJam spring conference in Kalamazoo in March.