Eighth-graders are volunteering side-by-side with Graland staff this year thanks to a pilot program led by Dean Erik Burrell. The goal, says Mr. Burrell, is to give students more ownership of their leadership responsibility at Graland.
Collaborating with Head of Middle School Marti Champion, Mr. Burrell created Eagle Guides, a program that allows students to work closely with the admission office in sharing how Graland has shaped their education. To participate, aspiring guides completed an application, describing themselves and why they would be good representatives of the student experience at Graland. They also solicited a faculty recommendation and signed a commitment pledge to serve from September to January. Eagle Guides must maintain good academic standing and model Graland’s Guiding Principles.
Nineteen eighth-graders were selected to be the school’s first Eagle Guides and are now acting as tour leaders, presenters and greeters during admission season. Eagle Guides coordinate with Anthony Gault, associate director of admission.
“It’s a great opportunity for students to reflect on their Graland education and to be proud of their experiences and their personal growth,” says Mr. Gault. “Expressing that can be powerful for them, and their authentic, direct perspective is valuable to prospective parents.”
Eighth-grader Sam Reisch is excited for the chance to give back to Graland for the education he’s enjoyed since kindergarten. “I feel really privileged to get a great academic experience at Graland,” he said. “I especially like to talk to visitors about Graland trips, which have been very impactful by letting me dive deeper into the learning.”
Ben DeVoss, Dean of Grades 5/6, leads parent tours with an Eagle Guide and has already been impressed with the poise demonstrated by eighth-graders.
“Folks leave their tours with an idea of our curricula and unique program, and they also see Graland student leaders who are equipped to stand and deliver,” said Mr. DeVoss. “The Eagle Guides’ ability to carry conversations and express themselves is very impressive.”
Sofia Saavedra (8) applied for the program to get just such practice speaking with adults. “As eighth-graders we’ve gone on a lot of these tours for high school, so it’s nice to help host people here,” she said. “I’ve been at Graland since kindergarten, so I know a lot about the school and I enjoy talking to parents who are here to learn more.”
In fact, on a recent Tuesday, Sofia was stationed in the Corkins Center where she greeted small groups of visitors arriving for campus tours. She confidently walked up, shook their hands and introduced herself before making small talk about the campus, Gates Invention and Innovation Program and other topics.
Feedback from prospective parents has been glowing, says Mr. Gault. “I’ve had so many say they were impressed by their tour guide’s ability to engage in meaningful conversation, in addition to how friendly and welcoming the students are.”
In the second year of the program, Mr. Burrell hopes to expand Eagle Guides to seventh graders as well, providing an additional opportunity for eighth-graders to act as peer-to-peer mentors.
Excerpt from student speech by Charlotte Smith, delivered at October Open House
“I have learned so much at Graland and not just academically. Yes, I have been taught algebra and yes, I know a little about biology but I have learned so much about myself and my character as well. I have discovered that patience and kindness are not just things you are born with, they must be practiced to become a habit. Graland has taught me about good people skills and how to give and write a formal presentation. It has taught me that character and how you present yourself are very important. I am grateful that I learned these skills because I use them in my everyday life.”