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Programs at Marymount of Santa Barbara Designed to Empower Students

Student-led projects help foster young leaders who are making a positive difference in the world

Marymount of Santa Barbara programs are designed with the intention of empowering students on a number of levels. One clear goal is to make students feel that they can make a positive difference in the world and to find their own voices and choose their own ways to do so. Examples abound at the junior kindergarten-through-eighth-grade independent school located on a historic 10-acre campus on Santa Barbara’s Riviera.

Examples of student leadership abound at the junior kindergarten-through-eighth-grade Marymount of Santa Barbara.
Examples of student leadership abound at the junior kindergarten-through-eighth-grade Marymount of Santa Barbara. (Marymount of Santa Barbara photo)

The success of a recent second-grade project in which students wrote haiku poems and illustrated a book about Lucky the Penguin who lives at the Santa Barbara Zoo was a creative way for the second-graders in energetic Jenny Kustura’s class to say thank you to both the Santa Barbara Zoo and Deckers Outdoor Corp. for their efforts on behalf of a penguin born with an irregularly formed flipper.

The zoo and Deckers collaboratively worked to create a fitted boot that Lucky now wears. The boot makes it possible for Lucky to lead a more comfortable and safe life.

Second-grader Isabela Petraitis Robles says it best in her haiku poem, which is included in the book Lucky the Penguin: “Lucky swims with friends; He’s the best dressed penguin; Bang like bumper cars.”

The second-grade class book project provided the opportunity to thank and support the zoo and Deckers Outdoor Corp. in a way that they could do on their own — by using their imaginations. In some way, being able to do this helped the second-graders feel more a part of and connected to the work the zoo and Deckers has done.

Jack Hogan is an exuberant fifth-grade Marymount student with a passion for playing the drums. He recently used his creative talents in the making of a music video that speaks out against cuts in public school music programs. Set to the tune of The Guess Who’s “American Woman,” Jack’s band of 11- to 13-year-olds from all over Santa Barbara is called Stolen Thunder. They filmed a video at the 1869 La Purisma Schoolhouse and submitted the video to a VH1 contest. They are now one of 10 finalists out of 350 entries. According to a recent KEYT news story, if the band’s song wins, $5,000 will be donated to Foothill Elementary and the band will perform at Chicago’s Lollapalooza concert in Chicago.

A recent sixth-grade project to raise funds for Transition House was also a completely student-driven project by Marymount students. The project not only raised needed funds through lemonade stands that the students organized and set up themselves, but has inspired a special day this summer (Saturday, July 21) to be designated during which children in the community are encouraged to set up lemonade stands to raise money for the charities of their choice.

“You have proven that kids your age can make a difference,” said Xochitl Ortiz, coordinator of volunteer services at Transition House. “You don’t need adults to make it happen.”

Projects that range from peanut butter drives for The Unity Shoppe to student-organized Valentine’s Day cookie decorating at local retirement communities and foodbank drives are a regular part of Marymount students’ days as a result of both the philosophy of the school and required classes in leadership.

“Students learn that there are many ways to lead,” said Vonnie Orth, a Marymount Middle School teacher. “Once the leadership students have successfully accomplished something, they are empowered to do something else. I have enjoyed watching their organization skills, enthusiasm and confidence grow.”

“Marymount students are recognized in the schools attended after Marymount as doers,” said Yvette Giller, a parent of three Marymount students and trustee at the school. “They think about more than themselves and follow through with thoughtful action. Thinking and acting like this often puts Marymount students in leadership roles. It is not a coincidence that there are a lot of Marymount student body presidents or other leadership positions in Santa Barbara area high schools.”

In Marymount Head of School Andrew Wooden’s opinion, a lot of the reason that Marymount students are empowered to make a positive difference is the result of programs that start as young as junior kindergarten.

“When students are given the opportunity to lead and to be heard, when they get the individual attention and focus they do at Marymount, they grow into young adults who are sure of themselves and their abilities. Marymount has a very strong program that empowers students and we intend to make it even stronger.”

— Molly Seguel is director of admissions for Marymount of Santa Barbara.

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