In its third year since transforming to a Leadership Academy, the community at Kyrene de los Cerritos Elementary, inside and outside the classroom, continues to evolve and improve, according to parents and teachers.

Before the 2010-11 school year, the school adopted a new mantra, and became a Leadership Academy, which incorporates materials from Steven Covey’s “7 Habits of Happy Kids.” The biggest change, according to a parent who currently has a child at Cerritos and had one previously at the school, is in students’ motivation and their overall demeanor.

The Cerritos community had a chance to teach the outside community — leaders in business and elsewhere — about what they have accomplished at Leadership Day on May 8. The guests toured the school, listened to presentations by the students, and participated in a question and answer session with Cerritos parents, among other activities on Tuesday.

“I’ve seen a huge difference from my oldest (who attended Cerritos previously) and now,” parent Wendy Callaghan said. “The focus is on having the end in mind. It was an eye-opening experience to hear my kids talk a lot about leadership when they are at home.”

One parent in particular saw a drastic change in her child. Three years ago, Melissa Thomas’ daughter, Reagan, was 80 percent unintelligible with a speech impediment. Now, three years later, after going through a Individualized Learning Plan, there is little trace of her speech impediment. Better yet, her mom said, she gave a speech to a crowd on Leadership Day.

“One example was, she was at home one day, and I was out of breath from running, and she asked me why I ran,” Thomas said. “I said it was to get in shape and feel better. But then she told me I was ‘Sharpening the Saw’ (one of the 7 Habits) because I was making a decision to improve my life.”

While still early in their new chapter, the staff at Cerritos has dreams of something bigger. They sit right next to Altadeña Middle School and Cerritos principal Darcy DiCosmo said she hopes to evolve that relationship so that the aspect of the Leadership Academy will carry over when the students move on to the next level.

“That is a possibility in the future, but right now the kids are carrying it over themselves, which is amazing to hear about,” DiCosmo said.

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