New academy promotes student leadership

Ethan Fingerhut

Wilson students with a passion for civic engagement are in luck. Next year, they will have the opportunity to join the Leadership Education and Application Development (LEAD) academy. The academy, which is specifically aimed at students who want to improve the world they live in, will focus on preparing students to better the DC Community, and take action to combat local and societal problems.

The LEAD Academy will be headed by English teachers Jennifer McLaughlin and Jake Williams. Next year, Williams will be teaching the Humanities and the Senior Seminar courses, while McLaughlin will be focusing on administration of the academy. Along with Williams and McLaughlin, other English and social studies teachers will be adjusting their curriculums to support LEAD students.

The idea behind the academy stemmed from McLaughlin and Williams’ observation that many Wilson students want to improve the world they live in. McLaughlin currently serves as the faculty advisor of Common Ground, a student organization focused on racial issues in DC and across the United States. “I love to see students think about ways to improve the world, not only for themselves, but also for the people that are following them,” said McLaughlin.

The LEAD regimen consists of three core courses and a choice of five options for a three elective requirement. All LEAD members are required to take Humanities, AP Seminar, and AP Research. Elective options include Public Speaking, Global Perspectives, Street Law, Journalism, and African American Experience. Members will also be required to take at least one other AP class during both their junior and senior years.

In addition to engaging with LEAD in the classroom, members of the academy will also be able to experience LEAD sponsored events. These will include college visits, guest speakers, and service activities. Members also must participate in at least one other extracurricular activity. “In order to make changes in the system, you have to be involved in the system,” said McLaughlin, paraphrasing Cornel West.

Through participation in the academy, students will deepen their knowledge of themselves and others, analyze the role of a leader in a community, and develop their leadership skills through experiential practice. “We both, independently, were wanting to find ways to put kids in leadership positions and roles in the school and then help them make connections outside of the school building,” said Williams.

Both Williams and McLaughlin and are excited for future the of LEAD. “I would love to see some long-term partnerships with some of the organizations here in DC,” said Williams. McLaughlin envisions the ideal LEAD member as one who is interested in leadership within their community. “If a student is interested in civic engagement and social justice in the Wilson community, as well as DC, then LEAD would be a good fit for them.”