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Fike High School senior Jalen Atkinson was into the groove, and every move he made was matched by Alaura Warrick, a second-grader from Lucama Elementary School.
The two were participating in a musical chairs activity at the Motivate to be Great event sponsored by the Fike Chick-fil-A Leader Academy at the high school on Thursday.
Atkinson was one of 35 hand-picked high school students who treated 100 students from Lucama and Stantonsburg elementary schools to the three-hour, activity-filled field trip.
“Chick-fil-A has sponsored in multiple high schools something that they call the Chick-fil-A Leader Academy,” said Kimberly Howard, an English teacher, basketball coach and academy adviser at Fike. “The purpose of that is to teach leadership skills to students who are identified and nominated by teachers within the school.”
The group meets once a week and discusses ways to advance their leadership skills. The high school students planned the Motivate to be Great event as a Do Good December project.
Some $1,500 in funds raised from a Laps for Love event helped pay for a Chick-fil-A lunch so there would be no cost to the elementary students. The Leader Academy also used the money to purchase personalized presents that Santa Claus passed out to each child.
Howard said the main thing is mentoring.
“A lot of times, these are the students that don’t get chosen to do a lot of the extra things,” Howard said. “We wanted these students to be able to come in and have positive mentors in their lives, someone who really looks like they care, and they are able to be pampered and given all kinds of different activities to participate in for about three hours.”
Teachers chose the students to attend the leader academy.
“They are chosen as students who have kind of risen to the top of their classes in leadership,” Howard said.
Students go through an application and interview process in order to be a part of the academy.
“This is the second year that we have had the Leader Academy at Fike, so we are really getting into it now and understanding what it is all about,” Howard said. “They are digging their heels in and wanting to do something for the community.”
Shannon Leidy, director of talent with Chick-fil-A, said the leader academy helps to develop young students into future leaders.
“From my side, it is a great talent pipeline. A lot of our Leader Academy students are also employees at our restaurant,” Leidy said. “It is also to make sure we are giving back to the community and really investing in the lives of students and children within our community.”
Christy Proctor, owner of Chick-fil-A in Wilson, said seeing the children’s happy faces is the reason the company supports programs like the leader academy and Thursday’s Motivate to be Great event.
“We want to impact the community, not just through selling chicken, but we want to see what we can do outside of those walls,” Proctor said. “This today and what this Fike team and these teachers have put together is just amazing. It is something that these kids who are participating are going to remember for a real long time. I am just so glad that we can be a part of that.”
Senior Jordan Bonner and sophomore Layla Dickens helped children decorate cookies.
“It has been extremely fun for me to work with the kids,” Jordan said.
The pair talked to the children about what they wanted for Christmas and how grateful they are.
“It has helped me to realize that children are a blessing and it is a blessing to help people,” Layla said. “It is also great to see smiles on their faces just doing simple things for them.”
Senior Adrian Shackleford helped children cut snowflakes out of paper and sprinkle glitter on them.
“It is a real humbling experience,” Shackleford said. “It is really good to make an impact in your own community. I just always want to give back because a lot of people lose sight of what is going on. They want to help in the world, but they lose sight of what is happening in their own community. Leadership skills are very important. You need them for your whole life to advance through life. You want to strive to be the leader.”