Student Leadership Exchange Program Forging New Community Partnerships

In the fast-paced world in which we live and with all of the communicative technology available to us in this day and age, it’s not uncommon for people to be less familiar with their neighbors than previous generations. This is not only the case for people, but for schools as well. Brainerd High School and Boyd-Buchanan School in Chattanooga are separated by only 1.2 miles, but the close proximity of the two school’s campuses has not necessarily led to much affiliation between the two institutions. However, Boyd-Buchanan School and Brainerd High School are on a mission to bring their students together, and to do so in such a way so that not only the students benefit from the interaction, but the entire community as well.

The idea of bringing the two schools together into a closer relationship began when President Jill Hartness of Boyd-Buchanan School and Dr. Charles Mitchell, assistant principal of Brainerd High School, met through Leadership Chattanooga. The two administrators agreed that it would it would be eye-opening for students of both schools to step into each other’s shoes, learn more about the academic programs and facilities of each institution, and collaborate on a variety of service projects. The idea developed into the Student Leadership Exchange Program, and already students of both schools are reaping benefits.

On October 4th, 18 students from Boyd-Buchanan School were welcomed by students at Brainerd High School and enjoyed an interactive tour of the school’s facilities and programs. Brainerd High School students took on the responsibility of facilitating the tour and introduced their visitors to BHS programs such as JROTC, Automotive Technology, Cosmetology, Bible History, and Criminal Justice. The two groups of students even worked together in the BHS’s Health Science classroom to treat “patients” suffering from Ebola and HIV. The excursion ended with lunch in the student-led BHS Bistro during which the students brainstormed ways for the two schools to work more closely and engage in leadership in their shared community.

In the end students of both schools walked away with a deeper understanding of each other’s school culture and with the determination that this activity would be only the first step towards a long and fruitful relationship. Emma Rogers, a senior at Boyd-Buchanan had this to say, “I had a fantastic visit to Brainerd. Going in, I was extremely nervous. I was not necessarily nervous about going to Brainerd; I was just nervous about going to a new place. However, as soon as we stepped in the door their whole group was warm and inviting! The students were hilarious and fun, and I’m very impressed by their hands-on curriculum and encouraging atmosphere! I was definitely blessed by the experience, and I can’t wait to bring them to Boyd!” Saint Martin, another BBS student shared similar sentiments: “I had a blast viewing BHS. I enjoyed seeing the different kids so dedicated to their own areas of expertise. I gained a friend, Janus, who seemed to have a plan for his life already. I admire that, and personally find the amount of effort he puts forth as very admirable.”

Moving forward, the two schools are in the process of making plans to engage in community clean-ups, meet with local politicians and business leaders, and work with community organizations to help those in need. As BBS Senior May Hartness said, “This experience provided me with a deeper sense of community, an understanding that we all have the potential to work together and create the bright future of a hopeful Chattanooga.”