• September 2010

Learning From Students: Lincoln Leadership Academy Charter School

By Angela Sontheimer
Managing Director
Lincoln Leadership Institute at Gettysburg

As managing director of the Lincoln Leadership Institute at Gettysburg, I see a lot of individuals pursuing continuing education classes to hone and refine their leadership skills.

We’ve been fortunate to work with a wide variety of teams ranging from Fortune 100 companies to employees from the federal government as a part of our Transformational Journey From Gettysburg leadership experience. It’s always rewarding to see adults learn new concepts and come away with actionable items that help make them better leaders and increase their productivity on the job.

Lincoln Leadership Academy Charter School

But the most rewarding educational experience we as staff members have participated in occurred this past April when we sponsored 25 ninth-grade students from the Lincoln Leadership Academy Charter School, located in Allentown, PA, to attend a two-day program. (Despite the similar name, it is not affiliated with us.)

These students, considered “urban at-risk youth,” lived in homes that most of our regular Fortune 100 clients couldn’t imagine. About 80 percent were Latino, 15 percent African-American, and 5 percent white. All were living below the poverty line.

The students were chosen by their principal and teachers to come and experience the leadership development classes that the executives take.

The school’s staff is determined to see these kids succeed and is piggybacking on a coaching model that we use here at the Institute with our corporate clients.

The GROW model

The school has adopted the GROW model popularized by Sir John Whitmore in his book Coaching for Performance.

GROW is an acronym for Goals, Reality, Options, and Way Forward. Faculty at the school introduce the goals theme in the ninth grade and add a theme each year until their senior year, when they determine the “way forward,” be it college, a trade school, or employment.

We at the Lincoln Leadership Institute were unsure how our leadership messages would go over with these kids.

Would they grasp complex concepts involving transactional and transformation leadership? Would they feel the power of the Gettysburg battlefield and understand the sacrifices made here?

Since the visit involved an overnight stay at the Gettysburg Hotel at our expense, and since most of them had never stayed in a hotel before, would it just be one big party?

The generals would have been proud

I am pleased to report that not only did the students respond well but they amazed our faculty with their insight, attention, and true desire to improve and grow.

During the last day’s wrap-up I was moved to tears as these wonderful young people thanked us and left with hugs and promises to return to learn more. You can find out more about their time with us by clicking on this ABC news story.

This experience was a good reminder of just how powerful education can be. By equipping these young people with a coaching model as simple as GROW, as well as complex leadership concepts, they became better transactional and transformational leaders and truly created for themselves a better way forward.

It was our privilege to work with them. We look forward to continuing our partnership in years to come.


About Angela Sontheimer

Angela is managing director of Lincoln Leadership Institute at Gettysburg, where she is responsible for overseeing operations, marketing, and curriculum design. She is a graduate of Gettysburg College and holds a masters degree in leadership and liberal studies from Duquesne University.

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