GIS Choose Love Ambassador Club inspires young leaders

Fifth graders smile and pose next to a white board that says "Welcome Ambassadors!" Two students frame the sign with arms in the shape of a heart.

Twenty of this year’s fifth graders at Goshen Intermediate School are becoming ambassadors through a new student leadership program.

The core formula of the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement is that courage, gratitude, forgiveness and compassion-in-action combine to “Choose Love”– and Goshen schools have adopted this formula for the past three years. At GIS in particular, the Choose Love leadership team has created and shared lesson plans, teachers have created student journals customized to the school’s needs, and each component of the formula is highlighted separately over the course of the school year. Choose Love posters and signage have been posted in every classroom and in the hallways, and there have also been staff trainings for teachers and aides.

Image of a black poster that reads "Courage + Gratitude + Forgiveness + Compassion in Action = Choosing Love."

However, this is the first time GIS teachers are giving the school’s oldest students a platform to own the initiative.

“We plan to foster student voices and engagement while facilitating an environment for them to become positive change agents in our community,” said Rosemarie Rampulla, a fifth grade teacher and co-advisor of the new club. “We want to empower them so they can be true leaders and help the younger kids.”

The club’s first meeting took place after school on Thursday, Oct. 5 with 20 pre-selected fifth grade students. One of their tasks was to identify the qualities they notice in people they consider leaders. 

“A leader is someone that sets the best example,” said GIS Choose Love Ambassador Kayann Alatevi. 

Other students said leaders are role models, teach people about things they don’t understand, and help others in need.

A woman stands next to a white board with two categories written, "Good Leaders" and "Why?" She is in a colorful classroom with lots of signs and materials around her.

“My leader is my mom because she has always tried to see the best in me, even in hard times, and she is trying to raise me to be a strong, thoughtful young woman,” said another ambassador, Ella Farrell. 

When asked if they have some of the qualities of good leaders they have learned about, every ambassador in the room raised their hand.

The teachers said that although they are starting small, they want to expand the club to include third and fourth graders next year.

“It’s important to start at a young age, because they are observing and absorbing everything that they see around them,” said Nicole Penner, also a fifth grade teacher and club co-advisor. “[We want them to see] people communicating positively and respectfully with each other, to know it’s okay to share their emotions with someone they trust, and to train themselves to calm down if they’re feeling upset. They are learning all these things now, and developing these foundations now.”

The Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement’s mission is to create safer and more loving communities through its Character Social Emotional Development programs. The organization states anyone can practice their core formula to nourish and strengthen the body, mind, and emotions to cultivate happy, healthy, meaningful lives and to thoughtfully respond to all we meet and improve the world.

Two female teachers stand next to a presentation on a SmartBoard that reads "Leadership Escape Room" while fifth grade students sit at desks with paper and pencils.