In Middlesex County, Heather Guas and a team of other Edison Township educators, including Heather Reusch, Patricia D’Alessio, Lisa Dato, Anthony Di Palo and Reena Pawar, were awarded a $3,500 grant to support student-designed HAWKS Leadership Projects. Students of the HAWKS Leadership Program have applied to become mentors within the program and have gone on to competitive four-year college programs.

The program aims to support and develop “average” students who have been identified as having leadership potential but are marginalized by feelings of disconnection from the school community, socio-economic disadvantages, or a lack of motivation. Concluding the program’s fourth year, the program has evolved to include Junior and Senior Mentors who serve in an advisory and planning capacity.

Teachers nominate tenth-grade students and a committee will choose 50 to participate based on recommendations, attendance, disciplinary records, club and athletic membership. Students will receive formal invitations with RSVP cards. At the first meeting, volunteer teacher coaches and student mentors will introduce the program.

Through the program, students will develop many skills that will help them set goals and achieve academically. As they participate in the weekly seminars, they will grow as leaders, gaining confidence, self-awareness and gain a sense of ownership within the school community. Increased confidence and the support of the teacher coaches, mentors and peers will cultivate a growth mindset. The students will develop a sense of purpose, belonging, pride and investment within the school and greater community through the outreach projects. This will ripple forward as the formerly disenfranchised population will affect positive impact on the school and community, creating a change in student attitude and school climate.

At the end of each month, students and advisors will be invited to participate in a reflective blog topic, offering feedback, comments, and suggestions regarding earlier sessions. These responses will be collected for review.

The program culminates with a recognition ceremony where the students will have the opportunity to present their experience, growth and community project to their parents and friends. The evening will end with a reception with refreshments, giving the students the opportunity to receive the praise, feedback, and recognition of their families, peers, mentors, and teachers in a celebratory setting.

For more information, contact:

Heather Guas, Project Coordinator
(732) 803-8625 (school)

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