For Chick-fil-A, it’s not all about cooking chicken. The fast food franchise has teamed up with area high schools to serve up some nuggets of wisdom through its Leader Academy.
The nationwide Chick-fil-A Leader Academy engages students in monthly Leader Labs with a focus on important leadership skills that they will use to create student-led community impact projects.
Franchise owners throughout El Paso have adopted neighboring campuses to offer the Leader Academy. Burges, Silva Health Magnet, Coronado, Franklin, El Paso, Chapin and Andress are among the high schools sponsored by an area Chick-fil-A in EPISD.
“Our vision at Chick-fil-A is to make a positive impact on the lives of others and so we believe that our youth are tomorrow’s leaders,” said Joy Martinez, who owns the Airway location with her husband Anthony Martinez. “It is important to invest our time and energy so that we can give them the tools that they will need to be better equipped for the world tomorrow.”
The Martinez’s kicked off the 2018-19 Leader Academy at Burges High School on Friday with 30 students at an orientation for the year-long program. The day began with some ice breakers, an introduction to the curriculum, a boxed lunch with the famous Chick-fil-A sandwiches and a visit from Cow, the restaurant’s mascot.
The curriculum taught in the academy focuses on servant leadership – a style deeply rooted in the Chick-fil-A organization and modeled by its founder, the late S. Truett Cathy.
“Our servant-leader spirit, in which we put others first, really comes from a sense of mission to serve others with compassion dignity and respect,” Joy Martinez said. “The same compassion dignity and respect that we would want others to offer us. We want to encourage all Chick-fil-A Leader Academy students and help them in any way that we can because Anthony and I had many mentors, family members, friends who encouraged us and believed in us and helped us in our journey.”
Last year, Burges’ project created a more inclusive environment for special education students in the Community Readiness Classroom (CRC), nicknaming them “the cool kids.”
“I think this year we will just make a larger impact and keep growing the relationships we already have,” said senior Lailani Chehedeh. “I’m really excited to see the way the new students start and the way they end. Last year, even for myself, just being able to see the way I grew and began understanding different types of people and just growing relationships was really a unique experience.”
Student Activities Manager Ruth Bohlin saw the leader academy as a great opportunity for Burges students to develop virtue and civic responsibility.
“While we have our leader academy kids go through the curriculum, they also have an opportunity to build relationships with our CRC kids,” Bohlin said. “And that in itself was a wonderful opportunity for each of them – both enriching for the CRC kids and the leader academy kids.”
Joy Martinez saw first-hand how successful the program was at Burges last year.
“What I noticed was that the energy, the spirit and enthusiasm was just remarkable – truly remarkable,” she said. “Seeing the cool kids just have so much fun and feel the love was just so heartwarming. You saw all these students come together and bring a ray of sunshine to the lives of kids.”