From a garden producing food stability in North Carolina to beehives sustaining plant life in rural Kansas, here’s a glimpse at just a few of our favorite student-led community projects.
Chick-fil-A Leader Academy™, a national high school leadership program, is built around one shared mission: impact through action. Organized by a school educator and sponsored by a local Chick-fil-A® restaurant Operator, Chick-fil-A Leader Academy comprises 30 students who apply to join the extracurricular program. Students participate in monthly Leader Labs, where they learn leadership principles and begin working toward their capstone Impact Project — an opportunity to put their classroom learning into practice by creating positive change in their communities.
Since launching in 2013 across three Atlanta schools, the program has grown to include 950 schools throughout 41 states in the U.S., collectively touching more than 132,000 students and nearly 600 Chick-fil-A Operators.
“It’s incredible to see these students come together as a unit and achieve a common goal for their community. They have a loud voice and genuine desire to inspire change.” said Matt Lingerfelt, senior project specialist, Corporate Social Responsibility, Chick-fil-A, Inc. “It fills me with hope for this next generation of leaders.”
This spring, hundreds of Chick-fil-A Leader Academy projects took place across the U.S. — despite the ongoing pandemic that affected in-person attendance for many schools. From a garden producing food stability in North Carolina to beehives sustaining plant life in rural Kansas, here’s a glimpse at just a few of the student-led projects creating positive change:
Heritage High School – Wake Forest, N.C.
Sponsored by Chick-fil-A at Heritage Village
One in five households in Wake County, N.C., face food insecurity — a stat that did not sit well with Chick-fil-A Leader Academy students at Heritage High School. Moved to action, students partnered with the Wake Forest Northeast Community Coalition (NECC) to concept and build a community garden and gathering space to combat food insecurity. The once-abandoned and overgrown lot has now produced more than 100 lbs. of vegetables and herbs for the community and served as the backdrop to an open house event with entertainment and garden tours.
The effort garnered a $10,000 grant from The Coca-Cola Company through the Sustainability Innovation Challenge, which invited Chick-fil-A Leader Academy students to submit an innovative idea that is creating a sustainable future in their local community. Through the grant and other community donations, students have procured vegetables and plants, a stage for health seminars and poetry readings, benches and a miniature library built by the school’s carpentry classes, with plans for a greenhouse and more gathering space in the future.
“Our students have volunteered countless hours to get the ground ready to grow, and grow it has,” says Bonnie Mwanda, assistant principal of instruction at Heritage High School. “To see them give their time and talents to support others…I can’t ask for more as an educator.”
A legacy of hope
Douglas S. Freeman High School – Henrico, Va.
Sponsored by Chick-fil-A at Parham Road
As students and faculty at Douglas S. Freeman High School mourned the loss of a former student in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, their mission became clear: to shine a spotlight on mental health wellness and the strength of a community — even while apart. Chick-fil-A Leader Academy students got to work behind the scenes to organize a virtual silent auction, collecting donations from local businesses and artwork from students. The team raised $3,000 for the Cameron K. Gallagher Foundation to honor their fellow student’s legacy while spreading mental health awareness.
The project culminated with a Wellness Fair in June, an event aimed to strengthen the community through art, music and free spirit wear.
Sweetening the educational experience
Rock Creek Junior-Senior High School – St. George, Ka.
Sponsored by Chick-fil-A at Manhattan (KS)
Chick-fil-A Leader Academy students at Rock Creek High School, which spans nearly 60 acres in a rural Kansas farming community, undertook the development of a bee and pollinator greenspace to serve as an educational tool for students while also combating the rapidly declining bee population.
Students have already harvested an initial batch of honey, enough to fill 80 8-oz. jars, a two-hour process that involved pulling the hive frames, scraping the wax, centrifuging and straining the honey. “Each time we visit the hives, education is underway, and students learn more and more with each visit,” said Jeri Brummett, a teacher at Rock Creek and facilitator for Chick-fil-A Leader Academy.
After students submitted their project as part of the Coca-Cola Sustainability Innovation Challenge, they received a $10,000 grant to continue their planning efforts. Their vision for expansion includes landscape and beautification efforts that will create a space where they can welcome the community and share in the education.
A lesson in gratitude
Mountain Mission School – Grundy, Va.
Sponsored by Chick-fil-A at Johnson City Crossing
As the Chick-fil-A Leader Academy students at Mountain Mission School started brainstorming a possible Impact Project, a beneficiary quickly came to mind. Their former teacher, Miss Scroggins, began battling mast cell cancer three years ago but has continued to invest in her students and teachers through letters from afar. The May 10 Color Run quickly turned into “Joggin’ for Scroggins” and raised $2,000 to help offset medical bills through 125 student participants’ entrance fees and a donation on behalf of the senior class.
“Chick-fil-A Leader Academy provides a vehicle to turn gratitude into action,” said Jessica Hertzog, director of education at Mountain Mission School. “Our students were so thankful to Miss Scroggins and how she’d poured into them; the Impact Project gave them the opportunity to turn that gratitude into a gift.”
Visit our Giving Back page to learn more about Chick-fil-A’s efforts within local communities. To learn more about Chick-fil-A Leader Academy, visit chickfilaleaderacademy.com.