On May 14, a group of 36 students from Ringgold High School boarded a bus for Florida. Destination: Disney World. Purpose: Learn from some of the best in the business how to become good leaders.
“I took students on this trip at the last school I taught at,” says Lauren Meyer, who teaches Advance Placement history at RHS. “When I asked our principal if we could do it here, he was very supportive.”
Meyer and fellow RHS teachers Maria Boone, Tyler Harper and Hunter Johnson accompanied the students, who were mostly from the Student Council, Beta Club, Future Business Leaders of America, and Fellowship of Christian Athletes groups at the school.
Disney runs a whole slate of leadership and business workshops for students. RHS students learned from a Disney executive who oversees 700 cast members, as Disney calls its employees, about three leadership styles — entrepreneurial, visionary and servant — and how they often have to be mixed.
Meyer says that when students were asked what they considered good leadership qualities, she was proud to hear them respond with the three “RHS Tiger Traits” taught at their school every day: respect, honesty, service.
The trip was not all work. The destination was, after all, Disney World. After a day of training, students got to enjoy the magic kingdom for three days.
“Our students were incredible on the trip,” says Meyer. “There were other school groups there, some of them not behaving so well, but our students were punctual, responsible and always cleaned up after themselves. They represented their school and community well.”
The eight-hour bus ride home was an opportunity for Meyer to reinforce what students learned. “I spent that time talking with the kids and asking what they had gained from taking the workshop,” she says.
And what did students learn? Here it is in their own words.
Kim Lyons: “I learned that there are many different types of leaders. Everyone has a little of each leader type in them, but generally there is one that stands out the most in one person. I also learned that being a leader is not just being a boss. It's being a good example and showing others the right way to do things. Being a leader is leading by example but helping people along the way. If someone needs your help you help them. A leader is not better than anyone, they are the same but they're the people that are willing to help and guide others through a situation.” (Favorite part of the trip: meeting Disney character Stitch.)
Ben Thomas: “A leader cannot take the easy way out. They must take the complex route to success and efficiency. You cannot gain without losing something first.”
Keeton Vandiver: “I learned that leadership is the concept of being a good role model for your peers and allowing them to see your vision/goals. A good leader should keep strong communication and complete respect for others.” (Favorite part of the trip: visiting the different countries in the World Showcase at Epcot.)
Mary Kate Bullock: “I learned that as a leader you inspire, you encourage, you help others; you are the light for others.” (Favorite part of the trip: fireworks show at Magic Kingdom. “It was incredible!”)
Hannah Fallon: “I learned that leadership requires initiative and with good leadership anything can be achieved.” (Favorite part of the trip: Flight of Passage in Pandora at Animal Kingdom.)
Nataly Helton: “In order to be a good leader you have to include servant, visual, and entrepreneurial leadership.”
Gabe Garverick: “A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.”
Savannah Ledford: “Great leaders inspire their people to reach higher, dream bigger, and achieve greater.”
Jordan Fuller: “Over the trip I learned that in order for a leader to truly be successful they have to value the importance of teaching others.”
“Students and their families paid for the trip themselves,” says Meyer, “which added to the value of it. I couldn’t be more proud of our students. They were so great it made me want to take them back.”