TIGARD — Near the end of the last school year, the staff at St. Anthony School here started a new program to get students thinking. Just months before the school’s pandemic response, the LEAD program was born. Before the school had closed, students had applied to be a part of the program. The students who applied were all responsible for getting references and attending meetings, which became virtual when the school closed to in-person learning. The school wrapped the new LEAD program into its student council. The council has eight students, including an elected president and vice president. The LEAD program had 44 students this year.

Each time the students meet, there is a topic assigned. Oftentimes a speaker is brought in to discuss the subjects, which have included things like intentional community building and the Catholic perspective on Black Lives Matter. The students break out into small groups with a teacher, who helps students better understand what was discussed and how it can be applied to their life.

The program has given students the chance to put the schoolwide learning expectations into action, said Audrey Vaughan, third grade teacher and co-LEAD director.

“A lot of times, students get stuck on, ‘How do I make this happen? I’m just a kid,’” said Vaughan. “This allows them to say, ‘This is exactly how you can impact the community based on our school values.’

“That’s what we really try to focus in on.”

“It’s really amazing that they’re doing this,” said Sally Plasker, vice principal at St. Anthony.

It would have been easy to defer the project during the pandemic, but the school started it anyway.

Sofia Rada was the first president elected in the new LEAD program. She takes pride in what the students have accomplished so far.

“We hold monthly meetings for all LEAD members where we learn about issues in our community from special guest speakers of all backgrounds,” said Rada. “We also discuss these issues and how we can all do our part to help solve them.”

The LEAD council organizes fundraisers and awareness projects for the causes they’ve discussed. “We try to set a good example of how to make change for our peers, especially those in LEAD,” said Rada.

“I believe that our amazing program at St. Anthony is a great opportunity for students to learn to be leaders and create change which will usher in a new era of students promoting justice, love, and equality,” Rada concluded.

sarahw@catholicsentinel.org