In 2010, Bishop Timon-St. Jude High School, in an effort to attract students with leadership potential — students who would have a positive impact on both school and local communities — embarked upon an innovative leadership program for eighth grade boys. Three years ago, Mt. Mercy Academy joined Timon in this initiative. Candidates from Catholic, public and charter schools are nominated for admission to both programs by their elementary school principals. Only students who have solid grades, a strong work ethic, are mature and responsible are considered. The classes are challenging and innovative. A significant yearly scholarship is offered to those students who choose Timon or Mercy for high school.
Once enrolled in the program, students attend class at Timon or Mercy four full days, one per quarter. There are reinforcement projects/assignments during the interim between classes. Throughout their class time students can expect to learn strategies for making good first impressions, skills for better name recall, tools for making good decisions, methods for implementing a group project and effective communication skills. A strong emphasis is placed on public speaking throughout the classes. Students are also expected to design and implement a service project of their choice.
Expansion of both programs into five-year “Leadership Academies” building upon the strengths of the eighth grade programs already in place is planned for the 2021-22 school year. Dr. James Newton, Timon principal, states that “I particularly like that as we implement the Leadership Academy into our grades 9-12 curriculum, we further reinforce in our future Timon leaders the Franciscan values of service, humility, inclusiveness, brotherhood and respect for all. Timon remains committed to graduating ethical leaders for the future.”
Michelle Melligan, Mt. Mercy Academy principal, notes “Mt. Mercy Academy continues to seek opportunities for young women that promote empowerment and strength of girls, opportunities that place emphasis on their potential and the impact women leaders can have on our world. I believe the Leadership Academy is one additional tool we will use toward this end.”
Students who attend the eighth grade programs, should they decide to attend Timon or Mercy, will move into the academies, “schools within the schools,” where they will be afforded many opportunities to hone their innate leadership skills.
These academies will continue under the direction of Suzanne Overdorf, Mt. Mercy Academy alumna and founder of the program. Mrs. Overdorf says, “I’m proud of the fact that at the end of their sessions students emerge as more confident public speakers and that they’ve grown in self esteem. Each year at the end of my time with them I feel great hope for our future knowing that these young people of character will be leading the way for future generations. It is an honor to teach them and I am very excited at the expansion of both programs into five-year leadership academies.”