Southeast Bulloch High School Student Council officers were caught horsing around this week during school hours. Turns out, the 9th through 12th grade officers took part in a leadership training event and learned valuable lessons from an unlikely, four-legged teacher.
Reggie, the therapeutic thoroughbred horse, a co-therapist at Brave Tomorrow Counseling, instilled leadership practices in the students through an interactive, hands-on activity Thursday.
Students were divided into two groups and each group was assigned the goal of moving ten objects from one side of the ‘river’ – a blue tarp – to the other side. Students stood on each side of the tarp but were not allowed to cross the ‘river.’ Only Reggie could cross.
April Wood Miller, owner of Brave Tomorrow Counseling, gave the students guidelines, and she encouraged them to pay attention to Reggie while working. Miller, and horse owner Alex Cole, Brave Tomorrow Intern and graduate student who completes her Masters in Counseling Education in May, stood in the ring with the students.
Brave Tomorrow Counseling offers mental health counseling and play therapy and works with clients of all ages. Three of the seven counselors in the practice are Eagala trained and work with horses on the ground. Equine Assisted Learning involves team-building activities, while Equine Assisted Counseling includes more counseling activities that includes feelings and emotions.
The student council members from one group pondered, contemplated, discussed and attempted various feats to get pool noodles, a beach ball, a duffle bag and a blanket, among other items, across the river in the team-building activity. Group two observed from outside the ring.
SEBHS Counselor Lucy Brinson explained that Reggie and Brave Tomorrow Counseling had served other students earlier in the year with equine therapy, so when it came time for the School Counselor Intern, Lauren Amason to complete a project for her Masters Program, Amason incorporated the Leadership Training and guest speaker project for the Student Council officers.
“The purpose is to help our students develop into better and more competent leaders as they continue in leadership at SEB or move into community or post-secondary education,” Brinson said.
Observing and talking quietly outside the ring, Group two waited their turn with Reggie. Thinking they might have a slight advantage, Group two entered the ring, only to find out that Reggie’s lead and saddle were removed before their activity began.
More pondering, discussions and problem-solving tactics took place. And when Reggie put his hoof down and slung his head adamantly, Group two had to rethink their methods.
After the success of both groups, the students met in small groups to write down ten observations of their counterparts.
Under the guidance of Miller, students used their noted observations in a large group to brainstorm five leadership lessons or take-away points from the activity.
All of the students agreed that communication is key to being a good leader.
Freshman Libby Williams said, “You have to be open to new ideas. If something is not working, try something else.”
Chloe Garside, SEB senior, said, “If you’re a leader and you think something is right, or if you know someone is doing something wrong, even if your idea is not popular, you have to stand up for what you think is right; you need to tell them they are making unwise choices.”
Garside added, “You have to be persistent. Stick to it. We knew the end goal and we couldn’t give up.”
When Miller asked the students to relate that to what’s going on in their own lives, junior Haley Parrish said, “A lot of us are getting ready for college. We need to work harder on getting good grades and keep trying to get into the college we want. But we have to be open-minded about our choices, because one might not be the right fit.”
Another junior, Laurabeth Bland, said, “When you’re in a roomful of leaders, you still have to be a good listener. We couldn’t all have to do it our way in the ring. We had to listen to each other.”
Following the hands-on activity and brainstorming session, Student Council officers made their way back inside for lunch – after hand-washing – and dined in the culinary arts classroom while community activist and leader, Keely Fennell, addressed the high-schoolers in a keynote about the values of good leaders.
Fennell told the students, “Some 30-something years ago, I was a class leader like you. I will guarantee you that you will continue to be a leader when you leave high school.
“What you lead changes over time. You may fail sometimes. I’ve failed sometimes. Once you mess up, own it; then the weight’s off and move on to something else.”
Fennell continued, “When you are a leader, you need to have passion.” The Bulloch County native took the opportunity to express her passion for the Blue Mile Project she has been a part of for the last several years. The “Blue Mile” Project, the South Main Street revitalization project, is one of eight finalists in the America’s Best Communities competition.
The Blue Mile committee member also shared with the students the value of knowing your own strengths and weaknesses. “Surround yourself with people whose strengths are your weaknesses and vice versa,” she said and shared how that worked well on the revitalization project.
“Be open, honest, respectful. Show integrity; be a positive influence and care about others. Show confidence and courage. Help others achieve the impossible and celebrate. Encourage the next generation. Use your God-given talents to accomplish much.”
The Student Council officers listened attentively, interjected when Fennell encouraged conversation, and then made their way to various class Advanced Placement tests.
If these bright young student leaders are an indication of the next generation, seems as if the community is in quite capable hands.