HARVARD -- The Harvard School Committee meeting opened Monday night with an impressive showing of fifth-grade students from Hildreth Elementary School. The students are all part of the HES Peer Leader program.
Monday's troupe is 17 strong and carrying out their duties for this second half of the school year. In the fall semester, there were 11 fifth-grade peer leaders.
To participate, students apply for admission and explain why they'd be a good fit for the program along with submitting teacher referrals. While lending their leadership skills, the students are also responsible for maintaining good grades, trying their best, demonstrating appropriate behavior, and striving to keep HES a welcoming community.
One by one, the students walked to the microphone to address the School Committee, each explaining their reasons for participating in the leadership program. Some said they wanted to help their younger schoolmates, others said they wanted to grow their leadership skills, and others were happy to serve as a good influence on others.
The program has grown over the past four years under the leadership of Guidance Counselor Christine Reale.
"I wanted students to have leadership responsibilities that would include peer mentoring as well as planning and hosting events," said Reale. "The younger kids really enjoy seeing the older students in the role."
The Peer Leadership program has helped plan, organize and host several schoolwide assemblies, events and community service projects. The students also mentor younger students.
In November, the Peer Leaders loaded a car and brought food for veterans at Veteran's Inc. The event helped serve a dinner to 90 veterans. The peer leaders have been asked to return to help next year. The students also hosted this year's Veterans Day assembly, with guest speakers visiting the classrooms. The students also organized a mock election in November.
Another huge success was crazy hair day. During a slideshow played for the School Committee, photos of kids with funky hairstyles flashed on the screen. Staff participated, too. The fifth graders all laughed to see a picture of teacher Robert Cullinane wearing a wild, white haired wig.
The Peer Leaders also organized a special clothing drive before the holidays, collecting 225 pairs of pajamas for the Pajama Project in the Fitchburg area. Now, in the new year, the students have a busy schedule ahead.
For this Friday, the students were participating in Hawaiian spirit day and a game show assembly was planned in recognition of President's Day. In the competition, fifth-grade students were to compete against teachers in a variety of game show questions related to presidential history.
In March, a welcoming video will be shot for incoming kindergarten students. Other videos to air during lunch breaks will include lessons on respect. In April, a special assembly is planned on acceptance of differences.
In May, a Memorial Day Assembly is scheduled in conjunction with the Bromfield Student Council. And on the last day of school, the Fifth Grade Talent Show hits the stage to close out the year in June.