Dorothy Fox students

Dorothy Fox students learn more about each other during a team building exercise at the school wide leadership workshop for fourth- and fifth-graders. (Danielle Frost/Post-Record)

Posted: September 23, 2016

Cathy Sork has always had a passion for leadership, dating back to her days as student teacher.

When she became an administrator and earned a doctorate, that passion was put aside for awhile.

But a few years ago, the Dorothy Fox Elementary School principal decided to form a Student Leadership Team, with a focus on service, teamwork and school improvement.

“I’ve found that student leadership is a strong fit with even the youngest kids in the system,” Sork said. “Student leaders at Dorothy Fox have helped to make our school a better place. My meetings with fourth- and fifth-grade student representatives are the best meetings I attend as a principal.”

One of the issues she and student leaders have addressed is playground equity. This has resulted in a “buddy bench” being installed on the playground. If students are lonely during recess, they can sit on the bench, and fellow students will come over and talk to them.

“We have a real focus on being inclusive at our playground, because that is where it all begins,” Sork said. “A lot of times, if there are issues sharing or with a certain game, some elementary schools will just decide, ‘Well, we aren’t doing that anymore.’ We talk about it with the students and try to come up with a solution.”

With that in mind, Sork applied for and received an $1,800 Camas Educational Foundation grant to bring leadership training to all fourth- and fifth-graders.

The “Walk, Talk and Rock like a Leader,” half-day workshop teaches students to understand what a caring school looks like, sounds like and feels like. They learn to recognize and report bullying, and to create a culture of acceptance and belonging.

“I really believe that when students think of themselves as leaders, it changes how they feel about themselves in the school community,” Sork said. “Our student leadership team gets to do a lot of team building and problem solving, and I wanted to bring that to all of the fourth- and fifth-graders. They are the leaders in the school and set the tone, so it has a trickle down effect.”

Read the full story a the Camas Post Record.