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Murray Journal

Grant Elementary Peer Leadership Team learns leadership, builds community

Nov 01, 2022 08:21PM ● By Julie Slama

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Grant Elementary sixth-grader London Pehrson recently learned perseverance is part of being a leader.

After quickly applying last year to be part of the school’s Peer Leadership Team, she didn’t get selected.

“I wasn’t on top of it; I submitted it last minute and didn’t answer the questions well,” London remembers. “I missed out on helping set up things and planning fun activities. This year, I turned it in early. I was more responsible and communicated what my strengths are and why I wanted to be a leader. I realized from my mistake that I can be a leader and set an example to encourage others to get involved and make good choices.”

She and 17 other student leaders, who represent every classroom, met in early October, bonding as a team, learning leadership traits and planning both the school’s celebration of Unity Day and Red Ribbon Week.

This is the first year that students are planning the drug and alcohol prevention and education week as historically the school’s PTA oversees it, said Sierra Marsh, Grant’s school PLT adviser and social worker.

“The PTA asked if we wanted to take it on, so we have a framework to work from and the PLT is taking it from there,” she said. “We have a component to tie into our school theme of celebrating life and are incorporating reasons to stay drug free for each day.”

On Monday, students planned to celebrate something they like; Tuesday, celebrate their family and culture; Wednesday, their future; Thursday, friendship; and Friday, their school.

PLT was still deciding activities to hold during the Red Ribbon week lunchtimes as well as Unity Day, which was the week before on Oct. 19. It’s the fourth year the school has celebrated the national day.

“It’s a day where we can take a stand and be united against bullying and recognize how important acceptance and inclusion are,” Marsh said. “These two events being held really closely together, but they also are very well aligned. With this year's theme being celebrate life, this team is also learning about celebrating one another, being united and supporting each other.”

Third-grader Olivia Stamos was a little nervous, yet excited that PLT was overseeing something new.

“I want to have the week to make a difference and help others,” she said. “I think by having a positive attitude, we can help other kids.”

PLT also oversees Kindness Week and partners with PTA for Teacher Appreciation Week. This year, they’ll also organize White Ribbon Week to teach their peers the principles of being safe online. PLT also leads the national anthem and school song at assemblies and shares the morning announcements.

Grant’s Student Advocate Lindsay Preece said PLT students are the leaders of the school.

“They are kiddos that can be looked up to by other students,” she said. “As educators, we need support; we can't be everywhere at one time. These students, who are representing their classes, can take information and collaborate with their classes, and then they can bring back feedback and collaborate as a team. This way, we can hear all our students’ voices.”

First, she said, they were learning how to work as a team through leadership activities.

One activity addressed “leadership doesn’t mean being successful all the time; leadership can mean collaboration,” Preece said.

After dividing the team in half, each group was given puzzle pieces and they were timed how quickly every member could contribute to putting it together. However, unknown to them, they were only given half the puzzle.

Students solved half the puzzle and realized the other half of the team had the rest of the puzzle and they needed to merge the pieces together to complete it—all in a total time of 8 minutes and 51 seconds, faster than Marsh projected.

“We studied what kind of leader you want to be, now we’ll learn how to build a great community,” Marsh said. “We want you to think about ‘am I doing the right thing, the right way, at the right time and for the right reason’ for our community.”

Sixth-grader Lya Ruiz is a returning PLT member.

“I like talking with other people and last year, I was able to go to a class I represented and get ideas from that class,” she said. “We’re learning how to help other people, to show kindness and be good leaders.”

For Lya, there is something more.

“I've always been shy, and in PLT last year, it helped me make friends—and it's still helping me make more friends,” she said. “I’m making friends from other classrooms and I'm talking to more people. When we do projects, it makes me feel good because I know it’s helping these people I’m meeting and becoming friends with.”