Beginning school with power and purpose

When our young people return to school each fall, it is essential they begin with power and purpose. How we start off any relationship, job, or school year matters. Our first steps determine not only how we are perceived by others, but also how we perceive ourselves. Going back to school with power means how a you establishes relationships of with teachers, principal and peers based on your desire to excel, your role as a leader, and your intent to listen, learn, participate and be heard from, learned from and called on.

The Institute for Community Leadership develops a very effective program for students to use that empowers them to advance socially and academically in the public school system.

The Ten Points for Going Back to School with Power (© 2001, Dr. Roy D. Wilson) follow,

  1.   SIT IN THE FIRST TWO ROWS OF ALL YOUR CLASSROOMS.  You want to listen, learn and participate and you want to be heard from, learned from and called on.  Not “shrinking” from your power, means sitting in the front of the class.
  2.    ASK FOR EXPECTATIONS OF EXCELLENCE FROM ALL YOUR TEACHERS.  Shake the hand of every teacher you have.  Look them in the eye, introduce yourself, tell them you want to excel in their class and ask that they expect excellence from you.


  1.    MEET THE PRINCIPAL WITHIN THE FIRST TWO WEEKS OF SCHOOL.  Establish a relationship where she or he knows you are a leader and are willing to be of service.
  2.    SEEK OUT AND ACCEPT CRITICISM with a thank you and openness to change.
  3.    CALL US WITHIN THE FIRST TWO WEEKS OF SCHOOL.  Get in touch with us about how to accomplish these requests.
  4.    PRACTICE NONVIOLENCE/EXCELLENCE AS A WAY OF LIFE FOR COURAGEOUS PEOPLE.  Practice confronting your fears; turning disappointments into assets; looking for the good in others; learning how to love your enemies; know and practice the six steps for nonviolent action.


  1.    BUILD COMMUNITY/KEEP THE CIRCLE AT SCHOOL.  Smile, build friends and allies across race, class, age and gender lines; get to know the staff, teachers, administrators; let them know you are a leader and nonviolence practitioner.  Build a circle of people around you who want to excel and who want you to excel.
  2.    DEVELOP THE LEVERS OF PERSONAL AND GROUP POWER AT YOUR SCHOOL.  Know who has the political, economic and cultural-spiritual power at your school and why, how, and when.  Know your own power and how it relates to the group.  Develop the levers of your power and the power of others.  Remember: You are somebody, always, and you represent many more people than just yourself.


  1.    GET INVOLVED, STAY INVOLVED.  Coach a Leadership-Poetry and/or Nonviolence Workshop at your school, church or community center.  Participate in community, political, cultural activities, run for office, give speeches, produce poetry readings and other cultural events.       
  2.    PRACTICE THE FIVE STEPS FOR PERMANENT CHANGE.  Know what you want to change about yourself, then implement the five steps to make that change.  Know what you want to change about your school and community, then implement the five steps to make that change.  Study, write, meditate, self-talk, act, to excel in school and everything you do.