Students, teachers SWEAT for leadership

MILFORD — Teachers and adults often struggle with keeping up on the latest and greatest in slang and terminologies heard in the hallways, but one “ buzz word” had a couple of them excited this summer.

“The word leadership,” Communities in Schools Site Director Patrick Helmick explained, “is such a buzz word now that sometimes it is confusing to understand what it actually is.”

Mr. Helmick said Edward Evans, a special education teacher at the high school, had been brainstorming the idea of a leadership academy with former wrestling coach Dan Rigby and brought the idea to him two years ago.

 Students jump during a daily workouts session in hopes of learning what it takes to be a good leader inside and out.

Students jump during a daily workouts session in hopes of learning what it takes to be a good leader inside and out.

SWEAT Leadership Training Academy, which stands for sacrifice, wisdom, eagerness, attitude and tenacity, ran four half- days a week from June 20 through July 21.

Mr. Helmick said, “The focus was to give our students exact leadership traits so they could lead others in the classroom, in our school and in our community. Our community, and our country needs leaders who care about others and are willing to sacrifice for others and by helping shape the students we are helping shape a better future.”

According to Communities in Schools Site Director Patrick Helmick, “The acronym describes the traits that we want our student leaders to embody in their daily lifestyles. If these students we selected convey these types of traits, we as a community will reap these benefits in the classroom, on the sporting fields, and out in our community.”

Thirty-three high school students and fourteen students from Milford Central Academy were selected for the program by former MHS Principal Dr. Green and current Principal Shawn Snyder as well as Mr. Evans who also coaches soccer, football coach Shawn Strickland and Mr. Helmick. Teachers were asked for input, as well, Mr. Helmick said.

In addition to preparing students for leadership roles in their community, the program also focused heavily on physical fitness.

Each student started the day at 8:30 a.m. by running a mile. A lifting routine would follow the run. Students would then gather into groups to read and discuss leadership books.

“‘The Habitudes: The Art of Self Leadership,’ book we are reading is a leadership program built for this generation of student. Every chapter is about a different image and that image is used as a metaphor for how a leader should act,” said Mr. Helmick during the program.

SWEAT1Team building activities, lunch and a bus ride home would conclude each day.

Students also helped clean up the school environment, according to leaders. Trash pick-up, removing old, burdened equipment from the weight room and cleaning out rooms in the high school were among their varied tasks.

Twelve guest speakers of different backgrounds also came out throughout the program to speak to the students about how they impact the community. Mr. Helmick said he hopes more speakers will get involved next year as the program grows.

Mr. Evans agreed, saying, “We as teachers have a lot of experience to share, but I think it is better to bring more people in with other experiences that can connect with our students.”

Some of the first speakers for the group included alumni Devon Reed, former college baseball player at College of Charleston and now accountant at Luff and Associates. Retired Airman Brian Clarke, now MHS Special Education Coordinator also spoke to the group, along with former alumni turned pro-triathlete, Carly Johann.

“The students involved gained knowledge in leadership as well as built positive relationships with students who may not have been a part of their original sub-group,” Mr. Helmick said.

As a result of the environment created only in part by the adult leaders involved, he added that students came to the program every day with positive attitudes and determination to work hard and better themselves.

The second SWEAT Leadership Academy is in the works for next summer thanks to funding from Communities in Schools, the 21st Century Grant and the Milford School District. With one year under their belt, students who participated this year will take on a new role in its second year.

“Our SWEAT leaders will be going above and beyond this school year to now become a mentor to the incoming freshman,” Mr. Helmick said. “Each SWEAT leader will be paired up with two freshmen and mentor them in a structured environment this school year.”

Mr. Snyder, who also helped during the program, said lessons learned through the leadership academy will translate to lifelong success.

“The preparation that this provides for our students is exciting. Mr. Helmick and Mr. Evans are talking about some of the most important aspects of life. These students are learning the importance of hard work and being a good citizen. True leaders lead by example. These life lessons will not only improve the quality of their lives but all others whom they encounter.”

Jennifer Antonik can be reached at

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