Over the past five years, the “Leader in Me” program has been spreading across school buildings in the Cedar Valley.

It’s a youth leadership initiative that has been implemented in 17 Waterloo, Cedar Falls, Evansdale and Waverly public and parochial schools with the support of the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber’s education arm – Leader Valley.

The Alliance & Chamber piloted the program at North Cedar Elementary School in Cedar Falls and Dr. Walter Cunningham School for Excellence in Waterloo in the fall of 2010.

It’s a worthy program that deserves community support. It helps students develop traits that can help them be successful throughout their time in school with the hope they will carry these habits forward through college and beyond -- creating a successful workforce with expanded business opportunities.

This week, a Leader in Me Symposium is being conducted at the University of Northern Iowa. During this symposium, all of the 500 to 600 educators and other attendees will visit two of the schools over the course of the event, which runs tomorrow through Friday.

UNI’s traditional focus on education makes it a great setting for such a gathering. The UNI event is one of 18 regional symposiums across North America this year sponsored by Utah-based FranklinCovey.

“Students will really be at the forefront,” said Melissa Reade, director of Leader Valley. Aside from the school visits, students will hold a panel discussion, make presentations and opening comments, greet attendees, lead tours and perform throughout the symposium.

Reade said “the big idea” behind holding the symposium “is just general interest in shifting how we do business in the schools.”

Leader in Me introduces students and teachers to the principles of Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” Eight Cedar Valley schools that have implemented the initiative will be showcased during the symposium.

It’s designed to instill leadership and self-reliance principles in students to improve academic achievement, life skills and workforce readiness.

We want to welcome the symposium attendees to our community and our schools. We have confidence that they will come away impressed.

Phillip Boesen, a fourth-grader at Orange Elementary School seems to be getting a good grasp of the program.

“We’re doing our best, everybody is being our best because we’re using the seven habits,” he said last week as community members visited his classroom during the school’s Leadership Day. “It makes our school a better place.”

We’re happy to see the Leader in Me program taking hold in the Cedar Valley, and proud to have this symposium here this week. Grooming people for success in school and in workforce careers is an important endeavor that should rank high on community priority lists.

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