Severn News

Learning to Lead with Purpose

by Caroyln Campion, excerpted from the full article in the Winter 2018 Camaraderie edition of The Bridge
Leadership at Severn takes on many forms, but in the heart of every student who takes on a leadership role is the drive to achieve a greater good. Severn students have the courage to lead their peers toward something bigger than themselves, toward building a stronger community through shared values and sense of purpose.  We foster these qualities through intentional, expansive, and inclusive leadership programs for all students. Throughout Severn's history, our students have graduated into leaders of every kind — leaders in their communities, their nation, and their world.  Today, our commitment to fostering leadership in our students runs deeper than tradition, it's part of our DNA. It’s dynamic and entwines through every facet of our school.

Intentional Leadership

In his opening remarks to the school at convocation this year, Headmaster Doug Lagarde discussed a three-word phrase from Severn’s mission statement - a lasting desire - and emphasized that it is developed through both purpose and practice. Severn’s leadership programs are intentionally woven through each student’s experience so they can find purpose in their lives and learn the skills necessary to make a difference in the lives of others with opportunities to practice those skills both in and out of the classroom.

In November 2010, Doug Lagarde set out his vision for an intentional leadership training program at Severn.
“There is no one definition of leadership. It is multifaceted, layered and complicated, and also vitally important. Through specific coursework, special programs, and everyday classroom content, students will gain the leadership skills and knowledge needed to move from competence to confidence to independence. A student will learn to be responsible for oneself and will gain perspective as he or she prepares to practice leadership in our daily community.” — Headmaster Doug Lagarde
Mr. Lagarde’s vision has become a reality and can be seen in every grade level. In addition to extracurricular programs like Student Council and Helping Hands, all Lower School students receive grade-specific leadership training, including but not exclusive to, problem-solving in the natural play area (PK-1), entrepreneurial studies (Grade 2), explicit leadership studies (Grade 3), a collaboration on world projects (Grade 4), and FLIGHT (Grade 5). In the middle school, students are taught leadership skills in programs such as Student Council, Community Life, Middle School Community Service Day, and the Admirals’ Pen.

Leaders of Our School, Leaders for the Future

Upper School students come together three times a year for Leadership Labs to intentionally evaluate and improve student-life at Severn. Each year, they identify and work through a different adaptive challenge which frames student council initiatives and club activities throughout the year. The challenge must be one with no known solutions that can be integrated into all aspects of life in the Upper School. Past challenge topics include: Taking the Initiative, Active Appreciation, and Respect. This year’s theme is “Unity,” a challenge to promote inclusion and a sense of belonging at Severn.

Upper School, students also receive grade-specific leadership training through the Seminar Program. “When we began planning this curriculum,” says Bea Fuller, “we worked backward, asking ourselves, ‘What tools do we want to give our students to be leaders in the world beyond Severn?’” The result is a Seminar Program, taught by the School Counselor, the Grade Dean, the Dean of Students, and the Head of Upper School, where each grade level addresses a different leadership theme. Sophomores focus on “Getting to Know Myself,” identifying and working with their values, biases, and strengths to positively impact their community. Juniors focus on “Getting to Know Others,” learning communication and relationship-building skills. Seniors focus on “Leading and Leaving,” examining their roles as leaders at Severn and also their responsibilities as they prepare to move on.

The best part of this program is that all students in the Upper School, not just those with titled leadership positions, receive three years of this training. According to Mr. Buckley, “The Seminar Program is a framework for teaching leadership to all different kinds of students and then giving them opportunities to use what they learn.” And the result? Ms. Fuller says, “The vibe has shifted. We have this amazing ‘care about each other’ community. Seniors stay engaged longer and do not push back. We have freshmen who feel empowered to present at morning meetings. We have students in every grade who encourage one another to play a part in the life of the school.” Senior Class Dean Mr. Phil Lenham adds, “Seminars lay a groundwork for students at Severn. From the work they do in Seminars, they develop a shared experience and common vocabulary ... a starting point. Most seniors cite examples from Seminars as some of their favorite memories of Severn.”

Love this and want more?

Read the full article in our Winter 2018 Camaraderie Issue of The Bridge!


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    • Community building activities help our students develop strong leadership skills.

Lower School

Preschool-Grade 5
Chesapeake Campus
1185 Baltimore Annapolis Blvd
Arnold, MD 21012

Middle/Upper School

Grade 6-12
Teel Campus
Severna Park, MD 21146