Shelterwood kicked off a new project on campus in coordination with William Jewell College. The Leadership and Positive Peer Culture Development program benefits both teens and mentors at Shelterwood, teaching cultural values and instilling leadership principles.

Allison Leone, director of the Tucker Leadership Lab at William Jewell, works with a team of the college’s staff to lead the program on Shelterwood’s campus. “[Tucker] is an experiential learning facility at William Jewell,” Allison said. “We have a high and low ropes course and offer off site programs like the one at Shelterwood. Our number one aim is to help people develop life skills like leadership and communication, teamwork and trust in a unique setting.”

The program at Shelterwood, which the teens refer to as “adventure,” helps to develop a peer culture based on the RESTART values that are foundational to Shelterwood’s approach. This set of seven core values (respect, empathy, safety, trust, accountability, relationship & community, teachable) is explored and discussed with teens and mentors in a way that helps them create healthy relationships with one another. This experience helps set a standard for how they want their Shelterwood experience to be.

“Culture is the oxygen we breathe every day,” Allison explained. “So creating peer culture for students comes through asking them, ‘What do you want your experience to be when you walk into a room at Shelterwood? Do you want people to be respectful and welcoming? Do you want a culture where it’s safe to talk about the struggles that brought you here?’ We want students to establish what it means to have healthy friendships at Shelterwood so they can have a support network going forward.”

The program sessions currently take place on Tuesday and Thursday nights in an experiential classroom that gets students and mentors working together. A variety of activities in each session help create a positive learning atmosphere and an opportunity for reflection on one of the RESTART values. With teens and mentors in the classroom together, there is a fresh and complex learning dynamic. When students see that mentors are willing to be vulnerable with them, it strengthens the relationship and teaches trust. For the mentors, it creates an opportunity to see students in a different light in a setting outside of the house.

The program is rolling out in two phases. Phase one will work to establish a healthy and safe peer culture where new students feel welcomed and everyone is on the same page about how they want their environment to function. Phase two continues the work in leadership development, teaching students to find their own voice and harness their potential in healthy and mature ways.

“The goal is to help students see that they have a voice and an opportunity to create good in their community,” Allison said. “They just have to know how to harness it.”

The partnership between Shelterwood and William Jewell College is a strong one. Allison describes that William Jewell’s mission statement is, “We educate our community to ask reflective questions, apply critical thought and act with purpose,” and that the same applies to the program at Shelterwood. “In all the work we do, whether on campus or in the community, our number one goal is to help people think critically and solve problems, and to not just do that on your own. We want students to work with others, risk that connection to synergize, and create something wonderful. Our goal is to help Shelterwood teens pursue that community so they can pursue growth in their own life.”

“We at William Jewell are really excited about this partnership and feel exceptionally lucky to have the opportunity to work with Shelterwood students,” Allison said. “They have great ideas and phenomenal staff members who are incredibly invested. It is a great partnership and we are very excited to be a part of it.”