The media are sometimes rapped for focusing on the "bad kids" or kids who mess up. But at the Menomonee Falls School Board meeting on Monday, there were many examples of Falls' youth who have emerged as leaders in their schools.
From the high school student, Emma Brose, who serves on the Board to multiple students involved in reading programs, the highlight of the Board meeting was student involvement. But it was young Matt O'Donnell who made one of the biggest impressions.
O'Donnell is just 10, but he addressed the School Board with the poise of an adult as he explained student leadership efforts in his elementary school. He's part of a voluntary 5th grade leadership group called the Riverside Admirals.
"Matt plays sports, but I am more proud that he could speak in front of the School Board that way," said his stepfather, Jason Hartlund, who attended with Matt's mother, Lisa. "That's the kind of thing that will make him a success."
The leadership program he's involved in has been making a tangible difference, Matt explained to the Board. Fewer students have been sent to the office since the program started; Office referrals are down to 352 from 477 last year.
"Our goal is to reduce that by another 20 percent," Matt said.
Matt attends Riverside Elementary School, W153 N8681 Margaret Road.
"We focus on the 3Bs -Be responsible, be respectful, and be safe," he told the Board.
Matt said the school also has a program where staff members nominate students who show leadership characteristics. He was nominated for the trait of respect.
The leadership group is also focusing on raising student testing scores, he said.
Matt said the leadership group helps out at events and is run through guidance counseling at the school. The school's website says the student Admirals help with PTA and other events organized by adults and are involved in service learning projects.
"I liked the idea of helping out other people," Matt said. "I had to give up recess."