In a high school setting, student leadership is often found in student government organizations. But a recently developed program at Lincoln High School aims to instill leadership skills outside of student government.

Lead ‘Em Up is a leadership curriculum that engages young people in the classroom and on sports teams with the goal of “turning youth into leaders,” according to Adam Bradley, the president and founder of Lead ‘Em Up.

Bradley created Lead ‘Em Up in 2015 at Watkins Mill High School, a school in Gaithersburg, Maryland. After meetings with the football team, he was asked to mentor some football players. This eventually led Bradley to work with the whole football team. The team and Bradley came up with the name Lead ‘Em Up, because this program’s main aspect is to lead.

“During that (football) season I began building out a curriculum and our team had one of the best years in seasons,” Bradley said. “So, we formalized the program, called it Lead ‘Em Up, and began making it available for all to access.”

There are now 3,000 teams and schools that use Lead ‘Em Up across the country. 

Brandon Pennington, a Lincoln history teacher, started Lead ‘Em Up at Lincoln in an effort to improve the culture there. He had success within a smaller group of students and was able to build relationships that led to the students having a more positive outlook on their role at the school.

“Positive culture makes things better, and easier,” he said. Pennington implemented the Lead ‘Em Up program more widely during the summer of 2022, along with doing other research to work on improving Lincoln’s culture. According to Pennington, he wanted students to come to Lincoln with a sense of pride and create a place where they belong.

“You don’t have a good culture accidentally,” said Pennington. 

However, the program hasn’t been universally popular. 

A number of students expressed that the Lead ‘Em Up program was a waste of time, saying it took students out of Champion Time where they were able to relax on their phones, chat with their friends, and work on homework. Other students said the program was directed toward a younger audience, and found it boring or unhelpful. 

Two Lincoln High School students created a petition to voice concerns about Lead ‘Em Up. Anthony Wilmot, a senior, and Janalynn Vosmeier, a freshman, both collected signatures across the school.

“By the time we ended it we had around 100 signatures, not all being students,” said Vosmeier.

Wilmot said his motivation to create the petition was “mainly to gain awareness after hearing the talks in Champion … we wanted to see if other students felt the same.”

​Both Vosmeier and Wilmot spoke with Pennington to help understand the issues with Lead ‘Em Up in Lincoln. “I did pitch some ideas such as … Champion Time could be used as a tutoring class, and just outright abolishing the necessity for Wednesday school, and instead of (Green Team) nominations, teachers or students could just think of a student/teacher that portrays green standards and leave them a thoughtful comment on an email,” Wilmot said.

The conversations helped Pennington understand the students’ concerns, and he began working with Wilmot and Vosmeier and in other small groups to create a way for students to more fully understand and enjoy the activities with Lead ‘Em Up.

“More students are now taking on a leadership role, not just students in student government,” Pennington said. 

“We’d like to continue positioning Lead ‘Em Up to be the premier leadership and character program available to today’s high school & collegiate levels,” said Bradley, the program’s founder. “We are passionate about impacting people and want to build that passion in others … If you’re a school using the program, there needs to be a genuine passion and enthusiasm for the program. The kids need to feel this is something you want to do, not something you have to do.” 

Emily Lightfield is a graduating senior at Lincoln High School and recently completed an internship at the Western Wayne News.

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A version of this article appeared in the May 31 2023 print edition of the Western Wayne News.

Emily Lightfield is a graduate of Lincoln High School and was a 2022-2023 intern at the Western Wayne News.