Catholic school adopts seven healthy habits program

Mar 14, 2019

A Buffalo Catholic elementary school has implemented a program called ‘Leader In Me’. It’s a student initiative promoting seven healthy habits. WBFO's senior reporter Eileen Buckley met with students and school leadership at St. Joseph University School on Main Street to learn how the program works.  

A group of five students gathered to demonstrate a song their music teacher composed to promote the Leader In Me program. St. Joseph University is the first private school in Western New York to be licensed to provide this leadership program. It is based on the ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ created by Steven Covey. The program is currently being used in pre-k through fifth grade.  

“I like that we get to help people be better people and improve themselves in their lives,” said Elena Kiefer, fifth grader.

Kiefer is helping to lead school assemblies, where students perform skits to promote the seven habits.

“There about like how to react when people are either mean to you or they are sad or overly excited,” Kiefer explained.  

“And I even hear pre-kers in the hallway saying I’m going to be proactive or I’ve got to put my first things first,” Mary Lanham said. 

St. Joseph University School students participate in the Leader In Me program.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

Lanham is leading the program at the school. She tells WBFO News this provides a personal journey to each student to learn how to be a leader and improve their wellbeing.

“The students have been taught each habit now and so they will start to continue shaping it the way they need to, focusing on habits that they need to focus on and each year they will learn more and more as far as each habit goes,” Lanham noted.

Fifth graders Trasia Crosby and Audrey Strassel also helping to lead school assemblies through the program. Along with leadership skills they teach students how to respect others, themselves and treat their bodies well.

“Can you describe a skit for me?” Buckley asked. “Well this one skit we did – one girl had a Pop-Tart and everyone wanted some, so she gave it to everyone expect for the one girl who really wanted it and then everybody else split it with her,” Strassel replied.

“Well I feel like people are becoming more of a leader and not listening to what other people tell them to do and listening to what they think will be the best decision for them,” Crosby remarked. “Do you think it’s helping and making a difference?” questioned Buckley. “Yes,” Crosby answered.

“And we’ve been very successful, so we’re seeing the benefits of it in every single day and lots of unusual ways,” said Anne Wojick, director of curriculum and partnerships at the school.

Wojick has been working at the school for ten years training teachers in a number of professional development aspects. She helped train the teachers in ‘Leader In Me’.

“Because we truly always believe that there’s a leader in all of us and we just have to take the time to find that and then how you develop that and the ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective children’ are a way for us to help them do that,” Wojick said.

The program encourages students to strive for more. Younger students are also working to gain the skills, like second graders Joyessence Chestnut and Clark Garvey. They’re trying to help classmates learn the ‘right way to live’.

“Some of my friends have anger issues,” said Chestnut. “What would you say if I was angry about something in class – what would you tell me? How would help me?” Buckley asked. “Take deep breaths,” replied Chestnut.

“Some of my friends have anger issues and I see that they are calming down a little more,” Gravey said. “What do you tell them?” questioned Buckley. “I like saying take deep breathes – take breathes,” answered Gravey.

“They’re up there in front of the whole student body, running an assembly – something that normally I would do,” stated Principal Mark Mattle.  

Mattle is very impressed with the work the students have conducted since the program launched this fall. He said also learned more by listening to them talk during our interview conversation.

“It gave me a different perspective – if you were to ask me – do I think we have a discipline problem or are our if kids tough here – I would say ‘absolutely not’ – but hearing them today makes me think that maybe down in the trenches it’s a little bit tougher then what I even thought,” Mattle reflected.

Parents are being encourage to work with their children at home in promoting these new habits. Each student shared their own favorite habit from this program.

“Synergize – because when I’m working with someone and they’re like all stressed out or they’re getting mad or whatever – I just need to know well I can work with this person.” 

“I think mine is number five – ‘Seek First to Understand – Then to Be Understood.”

“My favorite is Synergize because I get to work with my friends.”

“My favorite is to ‘Sharpen the Saw’ because it’s just telling you to treat your body right.”“One of my favorites is habit three – ‘Put First Things First’ because I find that it’s really important in your life to put the most important things in your life first before you do the things that give you pleasure.”