Once our students graduate from 8th grade, we receive feedback from their high schools with a common thread running throughout. They consistently tell us that Highlands students stand out among the pack. The reasons? They are not afraid to speak up in class or ask questions. They do not hesitate to get involved in extracurriculars or run for a student government position. They are academically prepared, take ownership of their learning, and are natural leaders on their next campuses.
At Highlands, you will hear us refer to our oldest students on campus as our “8th grade leaders”. While leadership development is a hallmark of the entire early childhood through 8th grade experience, our Middle School team is very intentional about finetuning these skills in their final year as a Highlands Blue Devil before heading into high school.
Last Friday, the Class of 2023 attended the annual 8th Grade Leadership Retreat. This is an opportunity for them to bond as a group through team-building activities and acts of service, as well as enjoy some special privileges like a Mexican lunch off campus with Ms. Vasil and creating their own 8th grade t-shirts.
A new element the 8th grade wanted to add this year to their retreat is giving back to their younger peers. Mr. Nickell, 8th grade homeroom teacher, said, “This year, we focused our efforts on giving back to a community that has already given us so much. When I talked to the eighth graders we decided that we don’t get to spend enough time with first through third graders. We love Teddy Bear Day and having 4K buddies but we wanted to spread the joy around a bit more!”
So, the students decided to create and set up a small carnival for the 1st through 3rd grade students. The students managed games, a caricature booth, and a prize stand, which allowed the students to win some pretty cool toys at the end of their adventure.
One 8th grader remarked that the carnival was his favorite part of the day because he enjoyed “being able to do something special for the younger grades” and he “could really tell the younger students enjoyed the carnival.” Ms. Hayslett, 1st grade teacher, said, “The 8th grade class made our students feel so special today. The children enjoyed spending time with their friends and 8th graders, playing cool games, and winning prizes!”
When the 8th graders were asked if it was a productive retreat, the resounding answer was yes. As one student remarked, “I have a better understanding now of my peers in my class and it set us up for a successful year.” Mr. Nickell further affirmed, “The eighth graders are our leaders, and they need to be ready to work together to get the job done. They are one collective pod during the year so it is imperative that we get them ready to collaborate in a healthy way.”
- Middle School