Brookwood hosts leadship summit for middle schools

The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated many high school spring rituals that many students have looked forward to. It’s an especially difficult time for seniors when the event they’ve planned for two years is canceled .

Disappointment was the initial reaction from the three Brookwood High 18-year-olds when they learned their outreach program for the school’s incoming students would not be taking place. Instead of wringing their hands, the members of the school’s leadership team devised an alternative and put the plan into action.

“When we were applying [to the team] in our sophomore year, one of the questions asked us to come up with an idea or something to focus on that the Brookwood community would benefit from,” said Parker Freeman. “Since then, we had this idea to do a summit to increase outreach to the middle schools in our district.”

The concept played off a leadership summit hosted by the Gwinnett County high schools each year. “We wanted to do that for our middle schools,” said Tarel Dennie.

But when COVID-19 shut down the possibility of a face-to-face, after-school gathering, Dennie, Freeman and fellow student Lydia Melka shifted the event online. The result: the school’s first Virtual Leadership Summit for students attending Crews and Five Forks middle schools.

“We’d already been in contact with the administrations, peer leaders and student government kids at the middle schools, and we’d spent most of our second semester this year planning,” said Melka. “When we decided to move it online, we already had connections to get the parents’ emails and post the change on our school system.”

Despite the modification, the trio wasn’t optimistic about the summit’s reception. “Our expectation was probably about 50 to 60 would participate,” said Dennie. “It was exciting to see that about 120 kids got online.”

What the younger students found was the chance to ask questions and get advice from the graduating seniors.

“I got a lot of questions about what activities and clubs are available at Brookwood,” said Dennie, who gave a short talk on the importance of getting involved in different organizations. “The school is so diverse, and there are so many options, but I emphasized that it’s easy to find something, and it’s also easy to start something if it isn’t there.”

Melka spoke about what it means to be a leader and how the position requires sharing knowledge with peers. “We wanted to drive home the idea that in middle school, it’s so scary to feel different or be different,” she said. “But to be leaders, you have to be different, and it’s something you can do strategically and not be afraid of. It was cool to hear what they were already involved in. It was much more personal than I anticipated, especially with the online element.”

Freeman, who led a discussion on the culture, climate and community at Brookwood, said staging a successful event was additionally sweet while so many other activities were canceled .

“We were so excited and glad we could do this,” she said, “and it went really well.”

Information about Brookwood High is online at


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 or 770-744-3042.