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School Stories

The Evolution of a Middle School Leader

By Marti Champion, Head of Middle School
As an independent school that serves students through eighth grade, Graland’s mission and Guiding Principles are paramount in graduating students who are not only engaged citizens but thoughtful leaders. But this journey to becoming a thoughtful leader doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, Graland’s Guiding Principle of “Inspire Leadership” is infused at every level of the Middle School, encouraging students to lead their classmates and inspire the Graland community with their words and actions.
Grade 5: 
In fifth grade, as the newest members of the Middle School, students are introduced to leadership in various ways. In September, they head to La Foret, their first overnight trip as a Graland student. Many students, some for the first time, experience a high ropes course where they encounter “The Leap of Faith.” The first to climb the telephone pole and take this “leap” model healthy risk-taking for their classmates, oftentimes encouraging others, even their teachers, to do the same. Throughout the remainder of the year, students get additional chances to practice leadership through student council, the musical, Gates, tower gardens, and Grade 5 Knighting. 
Grade 6: 
In sixth grade, students dive into the subjects of poverty and food insecurity in their MESH classes and lead the campus in outreach activities, using what they learned. Students host a food drive with the GPA, make toiletry bags for people experiencing homelessness, and coordinate the annual Empty Bowls event. At the gathering, students share what they learned with family and friends to raise awareness about food insecurity in our community.

Grade 7: 
In seventh grade, students work closely in partnership with a local Denver nonprofit that works to keep seniors in their homes with “A Little Help.” During this experience, students get to know seniors in our community and lead with compassion as they complete landscaping and home repair projects. Seventh graders also have the opportunity to participate in an ICE (Innovation, Creativity & Expression) class, known as Eagle Fund: Change Makers, where they become adept at speaking to leaders in the nonprofit sector and partnering with their organizations to make a difference. 
Grade 8: 
In eighth grade, leadership is celebrated, and students’ voices are amplified. To start the year, students create a list of attributes that embody a good leader and spend the remainder of the year striving to live out these qualities. Several ways students practice this leadership is through serving as Eagle Guides to prospective families and delivering UpWords speeches, where they reflect on a Graland Guiding Principle that has shaped them. In addition, students work all year on their Capstone projects (read more on the next page), where they explore the U.N. Sustainable Goals, complete service projects around a specific goal that speaks to them, and deliver presentations modeled after TED Talks to their classmates and judges.
The Middle School journey at Graland provides continuous opportunities, sometimes even daily, for students to “develop confidence in their ability to speak, to write, to lead and to contribute to the world as they become stewards of their communities.” As the head of Middle School, it’s always an honor and privilege to watch our students evolve into inspired leaders, on campus, and beyond Graland’s gates. 

Graland Country Day School

Graland Country Day School is a private school in Denver, Colorado, serving students in preschool, kindergarten, elementary, and middle school. Founded in Denver in 1927, Graland incorporates a rich, experiential learning approach in a traditional classroom setting, emphasizing the development of globally and socially conscious leaders who excel academically.