New elementary school leadership curriculum from UGA can provide school systems across Georgia and beyond with the tools to develop tomorrow’s leaders.

Created by the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development, the new Youth Leadership in Action© elementary school leadership curriculum targets students in kindergarten through fifth grade.

Fanning Institute faculty piloted the elementary school curriculum in 2015-2016 in Colquitt County’s elementary school language arts classes, and they have also implemented it at South Jackson Elementary School in Jackson County.

“Piloting it has given us valuable teacher feedback on the curriculum that is based on educators’ real world experience,” said Lauren Healey, a public service associate at the Fanning Institute.

Covering the foundations of leadership with lessons on understanding leadership, communication, citizenship, increasing self-awareness and awareness of others, and taking action, the Youth Leadership in Action elementary school curriculum is research-based and incorporates the latest learning methods to reach the 21st century student.

It also correlates to the Georgia Department of Education’s English Language Arts Georgia Standards of Excellence, allowing schools to integrate the leadership curriculum right into the classroom.

“By exposing every student to leadership instruction, the goal is to see a decrease in problem behavior and an increase in student achievement,” said Healey. “Rather than waiting for students to need intervention and enrichment, schools can build all students up from day one with skills that will help them navigate childhood and school.”

At South Jackson Elementary School, Fanning Institute faculty have delivered the curriculum to 24 third through fifth grade students as part of that school’s student ambassador program.

“The program has definitely given our students confidence,” said Ryan Poehler, school counselor and student ambassador advisor at South Jackson Elementary School. “It builds group cohesion, and that trickles down throughout the school. The third through fifth grade students are helping the kindergarten students and first graders.”

Poehler said he has heard from parents impressed with the students’ maturity level and leadership abilities, and these students also stand out when they move up to middle school.

“We have comments from advisors at the middle school about how well-prepared our student leaders were coming into the middle school because they have had that experience,” said Poehler. “Our students had training that other elementary school students did not have because they did not have that kind of leadership program.”

The Fanning Institute has also aligned the elementary school Youth Leadership in Action curriculum with its high school curriculum.

“The curriculum grows with the student,” said Healey. “As the student moves through the grades, their leadership exposure through the curriculum moves with them.”

Colquitt County will use the high school curriculum starting this fall, as will Walnut Grove High School in Walton County.

At Walnut Grove High School, more than 120 students in the last two years have received leadership training through portions of the Youth Leadership in Action high school curriculum as part of the school’s Student Steering Committee.

“It has definitely had a major impact on our school,” said Sean Callahan, Walnut Grove High School principal. “Behavior has improved, and respect for each other and their differences has been enhanced.

“After doing this for the past two years, we see that students are feeling good about themselves, feeling good about their school, and that adults and students working together for a common good is powerful. I think we underestimate how powerful that is.”

For more information about implementing the Youth Leadership in Action© curriculum in your elementary or high school, contact public service associate Lauren Healey,, 706-542-7350