Hawthorn Leadership School for Girls, the state’s only all-girls public school located in North St. Louis, creates a capstone project to teach social responsibility and leadership skills to its eighth grade students.

This year, the eighth-grade class broke off into small groups and tackled issues ranging from homelessness to bullying.         

“It’s really incredible to see our students working together to find solutions to community issues,” said Julia Hercules, dean of student life and community affairs.

“One of my students, upon seeing the impact of her environmental project, said to me, ‘When we first started this it just seemed like a big idea, but now it’s here.’ That was inspiring.”

With the help of their teachers and a number of World Wide Technology employees, the young ladies were tasked with addressing a problem of their choice in their neighborhoods. This allowed the students to get creative and learn about social responsibility.

For homelessness, they decided to start within their own school. After polling students, they found that 80 percent of their student population required lunch assistance. They also discovered that some of their fellow classmates even worried about where they’d get their next meal after school.

To address this issue, the students raised money and collected non-perishable food items for the non-profit Operation Food Search. Their goal is to collaborate with Operation Backpack and create a long-lasting partnership. Next year they want to send students who are food-insecure home with a backpack full of food supplies every weekend.

For bullying, the students created a mentorship program that they believed would help create a culture of non-violence and friendship. They were inspired by a presentation by Tina Meier from the Megan Meier Foundation. Their program will pair older students with younger students to combat bullying. The students believe that having a caring, older friend around could help younger students make positive decisions and be kinder to one another. It will be implemented in the 2017-2018 school year.

The project was designed to teach leadership skills and to create a generation of positive, influential young scholars. Hawthorn hopes to continue on with this project every year for eighth grades students who are about to transition into high school.

Hawthorn, located at 1901 N. Kingshighway Blvd., opened its doors only two short years ago, but it has already begun to create traditions that unify their student body and make learning an empowering experience. The administration believes that its students know that anything is possible because they see it every day in their hallways.

“Every leadership position at school is held by a girl,” said Mary Stillman, executive director of the school. “The opportunity and self-confidence we are able to give the girls here is really something special.”

Hawthorn has less than 200 students enrolled ranging from grades sixth to eighth. A ninth-grade class is in the works for fall 2017. The school is now enrolling for the 2017-2018 school year and accepting student in grades sixth, seventh and ninth. For more information, visit hawthornschool.org or call (314) 361-5253.

Melinda Oliver is a St. Louis American editorial intern who is studying at the University of Missouri – Columbia. 

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