Leadership Program will honor Lewis’ namesake

Lewis teachers and administrators work to debut the Lewis Leadership Program in response to a student-led initiative.


Mar Acevedo

The inclusive message of the rock outside of Lewis High School mirrors the goals of the Lewis Leadership Academy.

Alex Ewing, Staff Writer

It wasn’t long ago that the name of Confederate General Robert E. Lee adorned the school building and campus now known as John R. Lewis High School. A group of passionate students had successfully petitioned to change the name of their school from one of the most recognizable idols of the Confederacy to one of the most outspoken civil rights leaders of the 20th century. But for many Lewis students, this change wasn’t enough to make students feel welcomed and empowered.

The Lewis Leadership Program was envisioned by student leaders as a way for our school’s students to make an impact on the wider community.

Recent graduate Rawan Hashim, Lewis class of 2022, was involved in the student effort to establish the Lewis Leadership Program.

I think our school should be more than a name, and if your building is named after someone who did what he did, it is a good place to have these kinds of classes that are more progressive and feel comfortable because of our visible diversity,” Hashim said.

The Lewis Leadership Program seeks to honor the school’s namesake, the late Congressman and civil rights champion John R. Lewis, by focusing on four core pillars of Lewis’s civil rights career: leadership, service, advocacy, and justice. These values will be reflected not only in leadership classes being developed by students and staff for upcoming school years but also in core courses at Lewis.

Additionally, the Leadership Program’s courses will be developed to be compatible with the IB Diploma Program.

Hashim hopes that the Leadership Program will positively change aspects of academics at Lewis.

My biggest expectation is to include openness and having nuanced conversations that take on topics like racism, [for instance] in history classes, that we can’t have normally,” Hashim said.

Assistant Principal Robert Barrow is in charge of developing the Lewis Leadership Program. “Whether or not a student wants to take a [leadership] course, they’ll still have opportunities to learn about the significance of John Lewis’s life,” Barrow said.

Barrow said that there will be “an extensive marketing plan” to make Lewis students and parents aware of the “engaging, interactive, and student-centered learning opportunities that will be offered in these courses.”

With the creation of the Leadership Program, all Lewis High School students will be able to participate in educational field trips, service learning projects, and presentations from guest speakers.

Program Manager Dr. Deborah March explained that the Leadership Program is not only going to be designed by staff to help students, but it will be designed and guided by students themselves.

“The only way to do this right is to put students’ voices at the center from the very beginning,” March said.

The Program will be implemented over the course of three school years, with its full implementation scheduled for the 2023-2024 school year. Many details surrounding the Lewis Leadership Program have not been finalized, but the end goal will remain unchanged: to empower students, especially those who are often excluded from the decision-making process.