If you were in carpool on Valentine’s Day, or if you just happened to drive down Poplar Avenue, chances are you saw a visible representation of Christ Methodist Day School. It was the second annual Heart Blitz, a way for members of the CMDS Shepherd Leadership Team to spread love to our neighbors and community.
They made a variety of signs to hold up along Poplar: CMDS Loves Memphis, Love Thy Neighbor and Choose Love were among the messages. Groups of students also delivered cookies to our neighbors in Laurelwood Shopping Center and along Grove Park Road.
They of course had fun with the project, but the Heart Blitz serves a broader purpose for the school. It helps establish service and leadership as a cornerstone of the CMDS academic experience.
The Shepherd Leadership Team was a vision of Dr. Bryan Williams when he began his tenure as CMDS Head of School in 2014. Led by faculty member Kathy DeFreece, it’s a volunteer group of about 50 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th graders. The students give up one recess every other week, and attend monthly meetings, to fill various leadership roles around campus.
Sometimes they serve as greeters during carpool and Chapel. A group of 4th graders works with 1st graders during the younger students’ Engineering Lab classes. The Flag Guard is responsible for taking down and putting up the American flag in the courtyard. There’s a group that sorts through the Lost and Found, looking for sweatshirts and other items labeled with students’ names and returning them. The list goes on: scripture readers, marquee helpers and a number of students who serve lunch during Christ United Methodist Church’s SALT (Seasoned Adults Learning Together) monthly events.
Mrs. DeFreece is the schedule master. She can only take opportunities that line up with the appropriate grade’s recess time, and she has to be careful to balance other academic obligations.
“They have to be willing to give up recess, even if it’s a pretty day,” she says. “They don’t get to choose their jobs. Service is about helping wherever there’s a need, and they get that.”
For the second year in a row, the team adopted a 3rd grade class at Cornerstone Prep. Along with the CMDS National Elementary Honor Society chapter, they provide cupcakes, drinks and treat bags for the Cornerstone class’ holiday parties. They also collected more than 800 books for them.
Leadership Becomes Part of CMDS Encore Slate
The team has blossomed this year as an extension of Mrs. DeFreece’s new Leadership Encore class, which every student in 3rd-6th grade takes. The focus of the Encore class is mission, service and character education. Students learn about famous leaders, their leadership qualities and how their individual background played a part in their development.
“All of these famous leaders had certain talents that someone found in them along the way,” Mrs. DeFreece says. “My goal is to help our students dig inside themselves to find their own strengths and interests, and then guide them on how to use those individual talents.”
Leadership class often presents a trust activity, problem to solve or team-building exercise.
”What would you do if you saw a child cheating? What would you do if you saw a child being bullied? These are the kinds of situations we talk about,” Mrs. DeFreece says.
Still to come this spring, the volunteer Leadership Team will visit Carpenter Art Garden and the Memphis Food Bank and help with Christ Church’s Easter Egg Hunt and carnival. They’ll also continue serving around the CMDS campus.
And if the 2017 CMDS Heart Blitz was noticeably bigger than last year’s, the 2018 event may be even more ambitious.
“We want to broaden the blitz to reach other parts of the Memphis community. I think the students would enjoy a chance to get off campus and really spread the love around.”