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'Leader in Me' program to help students, teachers

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A new program to help Tipton County students will be announced Sunday. 

"The Leader in Me," which is based on The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and has been implemented worldwide, is a whole-school transformation that will soon begin at Covington Integrated Arts Academy. 

"More than 1,500 schools worldwide have done this and they've had no failures," said Lee Johnston, executive director of the Covington-Tipton County Chamber of Commerce who's working to get the program implemented locally. 

The focus of the program is primarily on leadership but also encourages and teaches accountability, adaptability, initiative and self-direction, cross-cultural skills, responsibility, problem solving, communication, creativity and teamwork, Johnston said. 

"What would be possible if our schools were filled with students who were responsible, who showed initiative, who were creative, who knew how to set goals and meet them, who got along with people of various backgrounds and cultures, and who could resolve conflicts and solve problems?" he asks. 

Johnston said he was inspired to bring "The Leader in Me" to Tipton County after seeing it at work in Savannah, Tenn. 

"Every child in that school had a job, everyone from kindergarten to fifth grade. The kindergarteners couldn't even read, but they knew the seven habits." 

In advocating for the program, Johnston said it will lead to a better future for Tipton County.

"It doesn't brainwash them, it makes them more of a part of the community. This makes a child feel better about themselves, it makes them more prone to teamwork and, in the end, it makes a better community, a better workforce and lowers crime because these people care. This is not make-believe, this is real life. This can happen here." 

Though Johnston works primarly with business and industry, he felt compelled to bring it to Tipton County. 

"I'm not anybody. I love this community and I want to make it better. This will change the community." 

Johnston will formally introduce the program, which will cost $82,000 over a three-year period and requires the dedication of each teacher and student at CIAA to get started, on Sunday afternoon. 

The community meeting will take place at Covington High School at 2 p.m. 

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