Leadership class students use volunteer work to learn how to be a responsible member of their community
WOODLAND — Students in Woodland Middle School’s Leadership Classes give back to the community through volunteer work, helping both at the school level and in the community for charities serving Woodland including the Woodland Action Center and the Woodland Action Center.
Robin Uhlenkott teaches Woodland Middle School’s Leadership Class and uses volunteer work to teach students that acting as a responsible member of your community, whether a school community or a wider community like a town, directly impacts a leader’s effectiveness.
“I introduced volunteer work as part of the leadership class 15 years ago when local organizations contacted me looking for help,” said Uhlenkott. “Giving back is an incredibly important characteristic for leadership to demonstrate how to work together to achieve great things; I design most of the curriculum around leading by example and performing acts of altruism for students to learn the importance of being part of a community.”
Students in Uhlenkott’s Leadership Class volunteer at the Woodland Action Center (WAC) where they process donations, restock shelves, and help out performing a variety of other activities. On Fridays, students help a local church serve lunches to Woodland senior citizens in need. In addition to volunteering at local charities, Uhlenkott’s students also help the primary school by guiding younger students through projects and other class activities.
Students who volunteer at the local organizations receive extra credit for class, but their motivations for volunteering reach beyond that.
“I always wanted to help with people,” said Dasha Vasilenko, a seventh grader. “Having opportunities to volunteer lets us do that even though we’re still students.”
Blake Smith, a seventh-grade classmate, agreed with Dasha, “Leadership is a really great class for giving us the chance to help people – I’ve volunteered both at WAC and helping feed lunch to senior citizens.”
Each year, students in Leadership organize events and projects including managing the honor roll; planning athletic team recognition; designing and setting up the school’s display cases; planning staff appreciation days; and even creating weekly video bulletins featuring news from around the school. Students form committees with each holding responsibilities for completing different class projects ranging from event management to filming and editing the video bulletins using video cameras and computer-based editing software.
“I first took leadership class after my friends in fifth grade told me about how much they enjoyed the course,” said BrookLynn Donald, a seventh grader taking Leadership for the third year. “I enjoy making people happy with the different activities we organize, and I think learning leadership skills help a lot in other school classes as well as later in life.”
Uhlenkott’s students credit her teaching style for helping them succeed with their projects.
“Mrs. Uhlenkott is really free and gives us the autonomy to work on our own projects without much guidance,” said Stapleton. “I feel like if she expects more of us as a class, we can rise to meet her expectations.”
Ian Peterson, a seventh grader, agreed with Stapleton, “Mrs. Uhlenkott trusts her students – as long as you’re working on something productive, she lets you do your own thing unless you need help.”
For Uhlenkott, who has taught leadership classes for nearly 20 years, her students give her inspiration and motivation as a teacher.
“In a regular academic class, every student does the same thing at the same time, while in my leadership classes, students will be working in different areas of the school as part of the class; leadership students need to be more independent and autonomous,” she said. “You can see the difference these kids make in our school and the community through their volunteer work and by providing fun activities where they get their classmates involved in supporting the school.”
Information provided by Woodland Public Schools.