LEAD Program welcomed by students and teachers

Addison Michael, Staff Writer

From daily habits and routines to overall health and wellness, the everyday lives of people all over the world were impacted when Covid-19 hit in March 2020. As students gradually returned to in-person learning, many struggled to regain their previous school habits. Soon, it was clear that something had to be done to help them. At Dulaney High School (DHS), a group of innovative staff began working to do so.

In the summer of 2022, a few staff members were approached by Samuel Wynkoop, the principal of DHS. He proposed the idea to add a short period during the school day to focus on social-emotional wellness. The principal hoped this addition would help students feel comfortable enough to express their needs and concerns to their teachers as well as provide a structured time to address mental health. After the idea was approved, a team composed of a few DHS teachers, including Wynkoop, Eva VanHorn, Brittany Jackson, Meekah Hopkins and Jason Bowman was formed. They worked together to implement the program that would come to be known as LEAD.

The team decided it was best for the program to be implemented gradually by school quarters. The first quarter of the 2022-2023 school year was dedicated to preparing DHS teachers. The team felt it was important to take time to introduce the idea as it was a significant change in a schedule that had remained the same for years.

“Our first faculty meeting was spent describing to teachers that something is coming. We just wanted them to really see what was happening and to know what’s coming down the pipeline,” said VanHorn. 

The LEAD Program officially began with the start of the second quarter. Its first few months were focused on ensuring a smooth transition and achieving simple goals.

“The goal of LEAD at this stage was really to get students the time and space to process,” said VanHorn.

By the third quarter, the team began addressing the academic aspect. Twelve “LEAD Passes,” like the one shown in the picture, were distributed to every DHS teacher; the passes would allow teachers to invite students to their classrooms during the 30-minute period for coaching classes, meetings and even socialization. 

“We now have turned LEAD into an area where not only are we getting to know our students, we are also academically helping them,” said VanHorn. 

The fourth quarter is when the team plans to execute the final stages of the program. This is when social-emotional learning comes into play. Currently, the goal is to implement activities that focus on building relationships on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Teachers will have access to an online list of ideas for such activities. A pre-planned 25-minute lesson about social-emotional skills will be prepared for Wednesdays. VanHorn speaks for the whole team as she clarifies that the staff are always open to suggestions and want to improve the program in any way that they can. 

“We’re doing this for the students. You have a voice. Speak your opinion. Communicate with your teachers. The most important thing is to speak up if there’s something that you need during the LEAD program,” said VanHorn.

After a long, gradual process, the team hopes LEAD will be finalized by the start of the 2023-2024 school year.