Leading the Way Back to School

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Elisa Beth McNeill, PhD, CHES

How exciting it is to experience the hustle and bustle of the back to school season again.  As I walk the halls of various schools, observing the eager faces of students beginning a new school year, I am energized by the hope of future generations.  I also am reminded of my personal mission to promote the American School Health Association’s (ASHA) mission “to transform all schools into places where every student learns and thrives.”

Transformation is defined as a thorough or dramatic change in form or appearance. As health professionals, we frequently think of promoting transformation by providing students direct services and interventions; however, there are indirect ways of triggering positive change. You can provide the leadership necessary to determine a direction, envision what lies ahead, visualize what might be achieved and inspire others to work together to achieve something significant. If we expect to achieve ASHA’s vision of developing “healthy students who learn and achieve in safe and healthy environments nurtured by caring adults functioning within coordinated school and community support systems,” we must have effective leaders who can energize people toward these goals.

As chair of the Leadership and Recognition Committee, I am excited to share a couple of ways ASHA is working to promote leadership.  First, we are developing  a new award to recognize emerging professionals in the school health field.  The Emerging Professional Award, to debut in 2016, acknowledges new professionals as promising future leaders in the field of school health. Being recognized for achievements and successes is a valuable part of nurturing the self-efficacy needed for young professionals to develop into outstanding school health prpfessionals. We are excited to recognize today’s young professionals in the ASHA organization because it is likely they will be the leaders of the organization tomorrow. The criteria for this award will be announced at the 2015 School Health Conference in Orlando, Florida during October 15-17.  I want to challenge you to identify and nominate a young professional you perceive as deserving of this award.

Our second leadership promotion strategy is the rebirth of the Future Leaders Academy (FLA). FLA is leadership program designed to identify and train individuals for future roles within the ASHA organization and in the arenas associated with school health.  As a former member of FLA, I can personally attest to the benefits of being an academy participant.  The lessons learned have helped me become an active contributor on a larger stage.  FLA has developed my skill set related to advocacy, communication and servanthood.  FLA can act as a foundational stepping stone on your journey to becoming an agent of transformation.  It is open to any ASHA member who is interested in developing his/her leadership skills.  I hope you will take advantage of this leadership opportunity or encourage someone else to do so.

Until I see you at the conference, I leave you with this quote by John Quincy Adams “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”  Transforming schools into places where every student learns and thrives will require all of us to step into the shoes of a leader. I hope to inspire you to find the shoe that best fits.