Kyrene’s first ever leadership academy, started this year at Pueblo Middle School, is building new leaders with a passion for helping their community. And the group was applauded earlier this month by the Kyrene Governing Board for their outgoing endeavors.
Charli Turner Thorne, Arizona State University’s head women’s basketball coach, helped to develop the program while on a year-long sabbatical from coaching, she said.
“I think the consensus from professors and coaches right now is that leadership skills aren’t quite as developed as we want them to be,” she said.
“So, in terms of addressing our community, we’re laying down good leadership fundamentals for incoming generations.”
Nine students were chosen through an application process to become academy members.
“I think the teachers did a great job in identifying those students who have the potential to grow leadership skills,” she said. “They are smart and conscientious, but they have no voice yet. So, we’re helping them to find their voice.”
Earlier this month, academy students organized a walk-a-thon to benefit East Valley Child Crisis Center, with the help of Turner Thorne and three other teacher mentors: Cheryl Schmidkee, Jeff Folkuerson and Diane Hyellstad.
Pueblo students recruited sponsors for the event, walking a certain number of laps or miles on the track for financial contributions.
“The idea is leadership by doing,” Turner Thorne said. “So, they decided on the cause, (which was to create) some awareness about the mistreatment of kids in our society.”
Luz Galindo, an eighth-grader at Pueblo who was accepted into the academy, said she was excited with the turnout for the event.
“I’ve already learned so much,” she said. “It’s a lot of fun working with Charli, and organizing this event.”
Turner Thorne comes to Pueblo once a week to meet with her young charges, she said, encouraging them to develop community-service projects on their own.
“We basically didn’t tell them anything,” she said. “We asked them what they wanted to do and provided support.”
After the walk-a-thon, students gathered around the outside auditorium for presentations by the Pueblo jazz group and choir, and listened attentively to motivational speakers who donated their time to get the students fired up.
Food was supplied by Spinato’s Pizzeria, Paradise Bakery, Costco and Elephant Bar.