by Sarah Smith

At Project 117, we’re okay with going against the grain. If we were content with the status quo, we wouldn’t feel a need to fight against injustice and our hearts wouldn’t break for the students who don’t have access to education. There’s a lot of reasons for this, but it really all boils down to our desire to follow Jesus. Jesus took a stand against a culture of injustice. He built into His leaders so that they would be equipped to do the work He sent them out to do. He advocated for “the least of these,” and made sure that those who followed Him were able to do the same.

One way that we’re changing the status quo is how we’re developing our leaders. We have a Haitian staff of 20, ranging from teachers to groundskeepers to our principal and administrative assistant. We know that, just as our staff is building into the lives of our students, we have a responsibility to build into their lives, as well. That’s why we’ve developed a Leadership Team of managers at our school. Like most management teams, our leaders oversee coworkers and administrate work for their team. Beyond those basic responsibilities, we’re also commissioning our team leaders to own the development of chemistry, culture, and compassion at Institution One 17.

Through the Leadership Team, we’re creating a conversation and open dialogue on leadership and how it applies to our managers’ everyday responsibilities. We’re educating them through quarterly training sessions that instill Christ-centered leadership principles in their hearts. We’re teaching them how to be effective motivators, coaches, teachers, shepherds, and inspirers as they lead fellow staff members and and impact students. And we’re learning from them, too. We’re learning their stories and struggles. We’re learning what’s culturally relevant and what practices don’t cross-over. We’re learning what it really means to have grit, determination, and unwavering hope. We’re learning what it means to be the light of the world.

We’re giving our Leadership Team—Greg, Nicole, Wisnham, and eventually Worcarline—the resources that they need to not only be equipped, but to become equippers. Greg, our principal, is learning what it means to lead a staff, to delegate responsibilities, and to oversee over 100 students as they discover who they are in Christ. Nicole is developing her leadership skills and is making a difference that goes far beyond the walls of our school’s kitchen: she’s stepping into leadership roles at her local church as well as a sewing co-op. Wisnham is not only growing in his leadership capacity, but in his personal faith as being part of Christian community is holding him to a higher level of accountability and authenticity. Worcarline is honing her skills as a teacher and beginning to get a taste for school leadership as she is being challenged to evaluate and encourage her peers, many of whom are older than she is.

It’s so encouraging to see leaders emerge on our Haitian staff as they continue to pour into the lives of our students and the communities around them. Watching them take more and more ownership of the process of providing hope through education will never stop inspiring us.