Finley Junior High counselors are changing the lives of students involved in The Male & Female Leadership Academy. The junior high program is geared toward seventh and eighth-grade students from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds. The goal-oriented program is focused on building confidence, shaping values, being civic-minded, and promoting healthy academic, personal, mental, emotional, and social development.
The Male & Female Leadership Academy has existed at Finley Junior High for four years and is an extension of Waxahachie High School’s program, which has impacted students for a decade.
Finley counselor Robin Duley, who has worked in education for 29 years and dedicated 13 years to WISD, serves as the advisor to the female students in the Leadership Academy. Duley said her goal for the female members is, “I want them to know they are worth something, are valuable, and have the confidence to be their own advocate.”
Activities that helped female members develop include visiting elementary campuses to engage with students and exercises to understand self-worth and value. The female members look forward this school year to hearing from WHS’s varsity volleyball captain Brooklyn Baskin and WHS’s 2021 valedictorian Lilyanna Armstrong about their personal experiences.
Duley is passionate about the mentor program because “Growing up, I didn’t have anything like this. It was either you fit in, or you didn’t, and some of these girls don’t fit in anywhere and everyone needs a place to fit in. If you can get them involved in something, they are going to have that drive to do something better.”
Finley counselor Kevin Nesmith, who has 25 years of experience in education and has served 11 years with WISD, advises the male students. Nesmith said he would not have developed into the man he is today without participating in a mentor program similar to the one he leads at Finley. Nesmith is passionate about providing the same support, guidance, and growth development to students.
Nesmith focuses the male mentorship toward contributing to a responsible community environment, building communication skills, and goal setting. Other topics have opened conversations about attitudes toward dating and how to respect women and authority figures. Leadership Academy members also participated in college and career field trips to Texas State Technical College and area colleges, including Texas Christian University, to gain exposure to different post-secondary avenues.
The members have a special connection with Brookdale Senior Living as they have consistently volunteered with projects in the fall and spring to beautify the grounds, provide holiday caroling, and donate necessities to residents.
“We talk about leadership and the responsibilities of leadership, making sure young men are aware leadership doesn’t mean being a ruler or dictator, but about bringing out the best in yourself and others around you,” Nesmith said.
The counselors expressed they are proud to see the members listening and caring about the lessons. The program directly connects to problems the students are concerned about and the development they have achieved is evident.