Student Leadership: The Potential To Be Part Of The Change

The fostering of students as leaders emerged as a prime ingredient in the success of the partnership between Montessori schools and Amman Imman. We saw evidence of leadership displayed in many forms.
  • For the 200 educators at the Montessori Peace Academy conference, students were among the first source of information about the project as they stood by Ariane and presented the project at the conference (see photo above).
  • Students at Oneness-Family School presented the project to students at the Barrie School who presented the project to students at the Evergreen School.
  • Teacher Laura Sesso from Undercroft Montessori in Tulsa, Oklahoma, heard Ariane’s presentation in Florida. She returned home and told her middle school students about the project. The students themselves researched the Amman Imman website, downloaded the Powerpoint presentation through the blog and presented the project to the other classes at the school. They raised close to $1,000 for Amman Imman.
  • Students in the Cayman Islands, inspired about the project through their teacher, Sarah Genereux, who heard Ariane speak in Florida, held car washes, read-a-thons and art shows, raising over $3000 for the project.
  • Students in Hickory Day School, where teacher Brent Harrison found out about the project after emails with blog updates were forwarded to him, chose the Amman Imman project among various options about Africa that their teacher presented to them. These students reported about the struggles of the people and collected change from the student and parent community, raising around $500.
These are examples of the many student-oriented initiatives and examples of leadership that have been generated through the project.

A student at Oneness-Family School expressed the influence that Ariane had on her notion of leadership when she named Ariane as one of three leaders who inspired her. This year, Louise Eriksson, a 7th grader, was part of a youth leadership initiative called People to People. In the spring, she attended a seminar in Washington D.C. with other youths. As part of her work, she was asked to "write about three present-day people who have leadership qualities that you aspire to have and describe why". The three people she chose to write about, in this order, were Ariane Kirtley, Al Gore and Mohammed Ali. Here is what she wrote about Ariane:

Ariane speaks with such compassion about the children and adults in Azawak, Niger's most remote and abandoned territory, covering 80,000 square miles and inhabited by over 500,000 people. There are no roads or dirt paths, no schools or health centers, and most importantly, no sources of water. Amman Imman's mission is to build permanent and sustainable sources of water throughout the territory.

Ariane came to our school in the beginning of this school year and spoke with such compassion about her experience and lack of help from world organizations. At first she tried to get support but was told that no help could be given. She did not take no for an answer. Instead she started traveling around North America spreading her word about the lack of water, the people in the Azawak Valley and the need for financial support. She was very knowledgeable about her topic and convincing. She made us all feel that we needed to take part in raising funds. She made me believe I can help change the lives for these people. Ms. Kirtley is now in Niger overlooking the first drilling holes.

I would like to be able to speak with such compassion to others to inspire them to do well in the world. To be able to continue even when it looks like there is no hope.

It is interesting to note that each of the people whom Louise chose as inspiring leaders are ones with whom she feels some personal connection through experiences she's had at school, experiences that were not just one time occurrences but lingered, and became part of her frame of reference. She saw Al Gore's movie An Inconvenient Truth with her class last year, and they spent some time discussing it. Mohammed Ali visited Oneness-Family School a couple of years ago, making quite an impression on the students. During this school year, Ariane Kirtley, the number one person on her list, has been an alive and continual presence for all of our students.

Louise's expression exemplifies the affect that I envisioned the project of Amman Imman and Ariane's example would have with students. It is not only the success of building a well and saving lives that these students have latched on to within this project, but also the possibility that their own effort can mean something. They have discovered the potential to be part of the change. By Ariane's example, they understand the power of one person standing up and taking action to right an injustice, correct a wrong, bring hope and save lives.


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