Teachers Inspire a Call to Service with Lead2Feed

Service learning curriculum builds real-world leadership skills while tapping students' talents

By: Lead2Feed

Great leaders are not born—but made. History books illustrate how moments in time defined a leader's role. From George Washington to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., these leaders took one small step to lead a larger movement and create history.

While one person can make a difference, it takes many more to effect change. To create a lasting impact and nurture 21st century leaders, middle level educators from more than 3,500 schools have submitted Lead2Feed service projects. Teachers use this free service learning program to teach leadership skills while empowering students to serve their communities.

Lead2Feed is the brainchild of Yum! Brands Executive Chairman David Novak and is based on his leadership book Taking People with You. The 6- or 10-lesson module program outlines how to challenge students to help alleviate hunger or serve other community needs with a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. From raising money or in-kind food donations to generating awareness, students formulate financial, marketing, and social media plans to keep local issues at the forefront of their school and communities.

Debbie Harris, an earth science teacher and the chairperson of the science department at St. Francis Episcopal School in Houston, Texas, got involved with Lead2Feed in 2012. The program resonates with her middle school students because many don't find leadership opportunities before entering high school. And without that experience, students find it difficult to learn those skills necessary for high school.

"Giving these tools in middle schools gives students the self-assured steps in their ninth-grade year," Harris said. "For wallflowers especially, this program made all the difference. Many students, especially in middle school, are shaky to speak. But when they get involved in Lead2Feed, they are able to say 'I'm leading this project. I am going to step out.'"

Emmie Treadwell, a leadership teacher at Baylor School in Chattanooga, Tennessee, points to many successes of Lead2Feed, including how the Common Core curriculum seamlessly integrates with existing lesson plans across many subject areas. She does appreciate how the program also addresses a challenge middle school educators continually find: How to create a classroom environment where learners' choice and voice can flourish.

"Lead2Feed empowers them to do something," Treadwell said. "Lead2Feed allows students to voice their choice, because the project is truly up to the students collectively. Lead2Feed provides a 'buy-in' for students, and that's absolutely important."

One of Treadwell's students found the Lead2Feed project daunting, until she discovered her artistic skills benefited her team's effort. She designed and sold 500 T-shirts on her own to raise money.

"Students learn that everyone has skills," Treadwell said. "To work as part of team, you can't discount that."

The changes in students' skills are immediate. From defining business goals to working together as a team, Lead2Feed brings classrooms to life by offering a hands-on education through a real-world environment.

"We start off understanding our kids can communicate, but not in a business sense," said Kathleen Barger, a specialist in gifted and talented education at Winston Woods Middle School in Cincinnati. "This program builds confidence for students to pick up the phone and call people in business, explain their service project and create community partnerships."

Treadwell credits Lead2Feed for the ability to teach students the skills necessary in the 21st century.

"We want to create a workforce in the 21st century who know the four Cs: critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity. Lead2Feed hits on all four for success," she said. "If you look at the lessons, Lead2Feed has honed in on that."

To learn more about the Lead2Feed Student Leadership Program and enter the Lead2Feed Challenge, visit lead2feed.org.

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Family and CommunityStudent Leadership
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Service Learning


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