The Shelter of Leadership

Creating challenging and personalized schools for all young people is the first step in giving the new generation of youth a strong foundation to start their lives.

I felt the energy of a mysterious environment as I walked through an unknown building. There was a familiar sense of school: a light smell of chalk and dry erase boards filled the air. My family and I were going to a meeting for students interested in Connections Public Charter School (CNPCS) located in Hilo, Hawaii. I prepared myself with low expectations of unkind teachers, irresponsible students, and an unwelcome environment. My adrenaline rushed at the thought of a classroom full of new students. Families and students began to gather in a room. There was no more time to get ready: the moment had arrived. I sat down as a future student.

I was startled that a group of students was facilitating. They spoke on all topics of CNPCS and answered every question with a surprising sense of humor. Their presentations illustrated a sincere eagerness to support their school. One topic sparked my attention: all CNPCS students are guaranteed opportunities to stand up as a leader. They presented the possibility of exceptionally growing as students of the next generation of youth. The first essential step was to simply acknowledge that. This compelled me to understand the purpose of leadership more extensively.

The decision to embrace this innovative school was natural. Our first semester has encouraged me to grow more as a student of life. I feel I can set my mind to undertake any goal without the fear of failure. This school represents vast potential of supporting more leaders in life, not more followers. The teachers are unlimited sources of knowledge and the students are excellent examples of solid leaders. This is clearly evident when they work with each other. Teachers go out of their way to promote strength within us as leaders, and students create productive foundations to further ascend from.

CNCPS has many ongoing activities that are offered:

  • Advisories: a teacher and a group of students gather together within school to communicate with one another. It signifies small communities where student input is incorporated in decisions. We discuss problems and concerns, share opinions and come up with solutions. Meeting with our advisory allows us time to examine issues more broadly. I think it is great method for disentangling difficulties. Each student is affected individually and it is important to stop and take a moment to look at the school’s existing condition.
  • Hui Ohana: a meeting held weekly with the entire school. We make announcements, discuss issues, and vote in a participatory democracy. This conference helps us to examine student life. We reflect on our school’s involvement and that gives us a clearer picture of where we are heading. I find this essential in putting the pieces of our school puzzle together.
  • Student-taught classes: contemporary classes taught solely by students. It is a brilliant way for any student to pursue an interest, instruct a class and get credit. These classes open doors for the youth of our school. It is a remarkable approach to learning to take responsibility one degree higher. My first exprience with student-taught classes has inspired me to consider teaching a class.

At Connections Public Charter School students learn to take the initiative and be more effectively involved in their education. CNPCS follows the principle that the school should be a place that is comfortable for students so students can rise to make a difference within the community. My main goal is to be more actively involved within school. I believe that by making mistakes, trying new things, and exploring your capabilities, you learn to become a more focused leader. Only by beginning with yourself can you start to benefit the community.

The challenge is persisting with each step. The necessary element is to realize that nothing develops in midair; everything takes time to unfurl. By following through, students reap the rewards of accomplishment. Young people can be full participants in the plans and process of education. In this new generation of youth, student leadership creates the shelter that keeps education alive.

Connections Public Charter School
Connections Public Charter School is part of the CES Small Schools project, working with CES Mentor School Harmony School to start a new high school that builds on the existing K-8 structure.

Maria Karin Walczuk is an 11th grader attending Connections Public Charter School in Hilo, Hawaii. She enjoys acting, dancing, filming, traveling and photography, and is currently pursuing her passion of performing internationally.