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River City Early College celebrates being named first Lighthouse high school



River City Early College celebrated becoming the first Lighthouse certified high school in the world on March 6, 2020. (photos and videos by David Day)

The atmosphere at River City Early College today was all party and pep rally as the Vicksburg Warren School District celebrated the school being named as the first high school in the world to be named a Leader in Me Lighthouse School.

“This moment means a lot to us because not many people know what River City Early College really is,” said Emily Harris, a student at River City Early College. “To be able to have this opportunity to express leadership in our community shows the state of Mississippi and our nation who we are.”

A lighthouse is a tower containing a beacon light to guide ships at sea, but lighthouse has a new and different meaning in the Vicksburg Warren School District. The students at the five Lighthouse Schools in the district shine a beacon of light within themselves to be great leaders in the community now, in hopes of carrying their leadership skills throughout their life and career.

The celebration had everyone out of their seats.

“This is a big, big deal because it takes those principles of Leader in Me all the way in schools from a pre-k, kindergarten level up to the high school students who are about to be leaders in our community as adults,” said Kelle Barfield, Warren County District 5 supervisor and Vicksburg Warren Chamber of Commerce board member.

The Vicksburg Warren Chamber of Commerce-led initiative was put into place after the chamber’s former director learned about Franklin Covey Leadership Training.

“We knew back in 2010 at the chamber we needed to implement something to further Vicksburg, and we thought, ‘What better way to do that than to do something in education,’” said Brother Blackburn, former president of the Vicksburg Warren Chamber of Commerce. “It just so happened that our director at the time, Christi Kilroy, went and heard about Leader in Me and came back so excited. We knew then that this was something for us to act on.”

Members of the community proudly looked on. Front row, left to right: Brother Blackburn, Bob Morrison, Corrine Morrison, Vicksburg-Warren District 2 School Board member Alonzo Stevens. Behind them sits Pablo Diaz, president and CEO of the Vicksburg Warren Economic Development Partnership.

With Blackburn’s vision, he knew he had to have the funds to implement such a large project.

“I brought this guy in,” Blackburn said, pointing to business owner Bob Morrison. “Together, we went to lots of businesses throughout Vicksburg to see if they would be interested in partnering with us and bring this program to Vicksburg, and not one business said no.

Leader in Me rolled out as a part of The Vicksburg Warren School District curriculum for elementary schools during the 2012-2013 school year. The effects were so compelling the program expanded to VWSD local junior highs and high schools.

Pablo Diaz, president and CEO of the Vicksburg Warren Economic Development Partnership, said an accomplishment like this is what businesses look for in a community before making an investment.

“This is going to be an easier sale, if you will, in terms of the quality of workforce that we are preparing for employers,” Diaz said.

River City Early College joins Redwood, Bovina and Bowmar elementary schools and the Academy of Innovation middle school as Lighthouse schools in the Vicksburg Warren School District.

The Big Blue Band got into the action at today’s celebration at River City Early College.

What is a Leader in Me Lighthouse school?

The Lighthouse Certification is a highly regarded standard set by FranklinCovey that is attainable by every Leader in Me school. As it is a significant benchmark, applying for this certification typically occurs four to five years after a school begins the Leader in Me process.

The certification is evidence that schools have produced outstanding results in school and student outcomes, by implementing the process with fidelity and excellence. It is also because of the extraordinary impact that the schools may be having on staff, students, parents and the greater community.

Schools earn Lighthouse certification by meeting the following criteria:

  • The principal, school administration and staff engage in ongoing learning and develop as leaders, while championing leadership for the school.
  • Leadership principles are effectively taught to all students through direct lessons, integrated approaches, and staff modeling. Students can think critically about and apply leadership principles.
  • Families and the school partner together in learning about the 7 Habits and leadership principles through effective communication and mutual respect.
  • The school community can see leadership in the physical environment, hear leadership through the common language of the 7 Habits, and feel leadership through a culture of caring, relationships and affirmation.
  • Leadership is shared with students through a variety of leadership roles, and student voice leads to innovations within the school.
  • Schoolwide, classroom, family and community leadership events provide authentic environments to celebrate leadership, build culture and allow students to practice leadership skills.
  • The school utilizes the 4 Disciplines of Execution process to identify and track progress toward the high priority goals of the school, classroom and staff members.
  • Students lead their own learning with the skills to assess their needs, set appropriate goals and carry out action plans. They track progress toward goals in Leadership Notebooks and share these notebooks with adults in student-led conferences.
  • Teacher planning and reflection, trusting relationships and student-led learning combine to create environments for highly engaged learning.

Leader in Me schools maintain their Lighthouse Certification for two years and continue to foster their growth in exemplifying a leadership culture. At the end of the two years, schools may recertify to maintain their Lighthouse Certification.

Learn more at the Leader In Me website.



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