South Orangetown Central School District

Citizen Leadership class

Students in Tappan Zee High School teacher Andy DiDomenico’s Citizen Leadership class just wrapped up a project inspired by the school’s charter, R.I.S.E.

TZHS’s charter, R.I.S.E. stands for respect, inspiration, support and empowerment and DiDomenico created a project for his twelfth grade students to highlight their peers and staff members. “We created the RISE Recognition project to support our school-wide initiative to create an intentional positive culture. Our students chose to recognize the people, adults and students, who embody our core values of respect, inspiration, support and empowerment. This exercise provided our students with the opportunity to express their gratitude and reinforce the type of culture we want to feel when we walk in the building,” said DiDomenico. “As a bonus, the research shows that this kind of expression of thanks brings greater happiness to the recipient and the giver of gratitude.”

Each student in the class was responsible for selecting a student, classroom teacher and a non-classroom staff member such as a coach, secretary, security guard or school counselor. Once they finalized their nominations, DiDomenico and the students completed certificates that focused on the value the recipients embody most and a brief explanation of why they were receiving the award. During class, students then hand-delivered these certificates to the recipients. “I gave one of the certificates to my friend who uses her open periods to work with the COVE students to refill the vending machines. When I was delivering my certificates, I felt pleased with myself. Expressing my gratitude is not something I normally do so it was nice to have that opportunity,” said Tara M.

Citizen Leadership at TZHS is a one-semester course that is aimed to promote character driven, respectful and responsible student leaders both in school and within the community. The focus of the course is creating an understanding of fundamental positive character traits, raising awareness of inequality and injustice in the world and applying the role of civic participation to bring awareness to action.