Students in summer program master leadership skills

Brandon Hall's summer leadership program brings students from around the globe to the Sandy Springs campus.
Caption
Brandon Hall's summer leadership program brings students from around the globe to the Sandy Springs campus.

A main attraction of Brandon Hall School has been its status as one of the few co-educational boarding schools in Georgia. During the academic year, about 140 students, both residents and commuters in sixth through 12th grades, meet on the 24-acre campus along the river in Sandy Springs.

Head of School Dean Fusto also wants the school to be known for its dedication to leadership training. In 2017, he founded the Center for Global Youth Leadership and Social Entrepreneurial Studies as a summer program where students from around the globe can come together to solve real-world problems. It launched with eight participants and this year drew 40 students who picked a personal passion project and, in three weeks, developed a plan to bring that project to life.

“Students from across Atlanta, the state and the globe learn about sustainable goals and issues challenging the U.S. and the world,” said Fusto. “There are so many great things kids this age can do. We see a growth potential for the program and want to be known in the Southeast for these types of leadership and entrepreneurial programs.”

This summer, 11- to 17-year-olds worked on projects such as a sustainable garden to support the school’s chicken coop and greenhouse, ways to improve girls’ education in Nigeria, expanding music education therapy programs in pre-K and kindergarten, and a camp that ditches technology so participants can focus on reading and writing.

“We push them to drill down to specific regions and ways they’d approach the issue,said Fusto. “Many of the kids focus on some sort of social cause, and part of that process is working on stories about why they care about these things.”

Fusto and a team of mentors introduce students to local leadership consultants and entrepreneurs who offer advice. This summer, former program participant Sam Shapira returned to share his expertise.

“I was in the program in the summer of 2019, and it introduced me to people from many other places,” he said. “That was great because I hadn’t met many people from outside the U.S.”

During the summer, Shapira wrote a script to explain epilepsy, a condition he has. “My idea was to teach people about seizures so they have a better understanding,” he said. “Then I used that information as the backbone for my Eagle Scout project.”

Being a summer mentor before heading to Oglethorpe University this fall has brought the project full-circle for him.

“I like working with the students one-on-one and doing workshops before their final presentations,” he said. “I was a theater kid at Brandon Hall, so I have a lot of theater tricks they can use in their public speaking.”

Fusto said the school has gotten some buzz about the program that he hopes to expand into areas such as peace and conflict resolution. He’s also working on a leadership master class to be offered during the school term.

“A big part of this is driven by the experiential side of education I’ve seen in my 30 years in the field,” he said. “There are service programs out there, but I don’t think there’s a depth to them, and we can bring a richer experience to kids who have a passion and don’t want to wait until college to explore it.”

Information about Brandon Hall is online at brandonhall.org.

SEND US YOUR STORIES. Each week we look at programs, projects and successful endeavors at area schools, from pre-K to grad school. To suggest a story, contact H.M. Cauley at hm_cauley@yahoo.com or 770-744-3042.