Mrs. Patricia Griffin, Principal of St. Ann Academy in Bridgeport, loves the image of a lighthouse. "We are here to shine a light for the students, to guide them safely on their way". It is fitting that the Wingman student leaders at her school decided to call themselves the "Wings of Light" and a very talented 8th grader created this beautiful motif to represent the program. The student leaders have dedicated their Wingman program to the tenets of Compassion, Empathy and Perseverance as a way to true Acceptance of everyone in the St. Ann Academy family and beyond. Today saw the unveiling of Wingman to the assembled student body, where 180 children from Kindergarten through to 8th grade took part in experiential activities that began their journey of building a stronger community.
The day started with the completion of the student leader's training, again facilitated by Jennifer Stanchfield of Experiential Tools who has been with the Wingman program since its inception in 2015. The Wings of Light established themselves into pairs and agreed which grade they would work with for the rest of the year, delivering the Wingman program through a series of dedicated lesson periods exploring the key tenets they had decided upon with their Teacher Champions, Mrs. Titus, Maloney and Pesta. A key strength of the Wingman program is that the students have full ownership of the program content and delivery.
After lunch the student body was gathered in the assembly hall and learned the full story about this new program that had been the talk of the corridors for the previous three weeks. The Wings of Light explained in their own words what the Wingman program means to them and the school:
"We joined Wingman because everyone has a voice and everyone deserves to be heard, and we feel we have a positive and strong influence in making that happen. We also decided it would be really nice to show students in younger grades, that even though they are younger, their voices are still heard and anyone - any age - can be a leader. We also joined Wingman to bring a positive change to St. Ann.
Wingman will not only bring life-long team building skills into the classrooms, but also the philosophy of you can be who every you'd like to be, whether that's a leader, or a listener. Wingman will strengthen our confidence in and out of the classroom. Wingman will bring happiness and peace to the St. Ann community.
To us, Wingman is a chance for people to be happy and for everyone to feel important. Wingman is about never being afraid to stand up for what you believe in. Wingman shouldn't just be a program, it should be a way of life. We should live by the philosophy of always being inclusive of everyone, and being able to work as a team with any age group.
Wingman gives us a chance for everyone to collaborate together and get along, thus bringing joy to everyone at our school and community. Remember - we may be the Wingman leaders, but you are all part of the Wingman program."
With these amazing words resonating around the assembly hall, the students headed outside where the Wings of Light had prepared an afternoon of team and trust building activities appropriate for each grade. The next 90 minutes were full of laughter and cheering as the students both played and reflected on games like Team Rock-Paper-Scissors, the Chicken Toss and Dragon's Tail. Everyone received a Wingman bracelet and I was honored to share Dylan and Nicole's "butterfly story". At the end, everyone threw themselves wholeheartedly into a "Wingman Cheer", probably heard right across the Blackrock neighborhood.
Afterwards, Mrs. Griffin reflected on the day "I am still amazed by the enthusiasm and changes that I witnessed in the Wings of Light leaders. Wingman has made a difference in all, leaders, teacher champions, faculty and staff. It is amazing to me how in a very short time a community can be fully engaged and committed to a shared vision."
I look forward to visiting St. Ann Academy in November as the program gets into full swing. This is an amazing group of young people that will surely change the world.