Lighthouse Team learns to pay it forward

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SUMITON – Car rider students arriving at Sumiton Middle School are often greeted by the Lighthouse Team, who open doors for students and carries signs of encouragement for the parents.

“This is more than just a leadership team; it’s taking our school to a new level,” Lighthouse coordinator Heather Light said. 

Tracy Tubbs, who teaches students with special needs for Grades 4-6, is also a Lighthouse Team sponsor.  The seeds of the Lighthouse initiative grew from a program entitled the Leader in Me. This was an initiative started by the former principal Paige Abner.

The Lighthouse Team project is built on the goals of the Leader in Me initiative. It teaches more than just reading, writing, and math, according to Tubbs. It focuses on moral values, character, and responsibility.

“We try to incorporate these things into every part of the school day,” she said.

The Lighthouse Team is teaching students things that they may not be learning at home, according to Light. 

 “We’re teaching them character traits and paying it forward because they are going to be our future,” Light said.

“My hope is that if these kids are in a bad cycle at home, they become cycle-breakers,” she said. “And they are going to step out and do something different.”

The idea is to teach children how to be leaders in school and in society as a whole. The hope is that by teaching these values now, the concepts will follow the children home, to college, to their families, and beyond, according to Tubbs.

Students from all grade levels at Sumiton Middle School participate on the Lighthouse team and get involved with becoming an active participant in their education, the upkeep of the school, and the overall atmosphere of everyday school life.

Projects include doing random acts of kindness for certain individuals who may need their spirits lifted.

Recently for Lunchroom Workers Week, the Lighthouse Team created posters with uplifting quotes and words of encouragement for the people who work in the lunchroom at Sumiton Middle School.

When the lunchroom staff arrived early that first morning, the back entrance was covered with posters and sticky notes.  The Lighthouse team wrote quotes and words of encouragement to show their appreciation for the lunchroom staff.

The team also posted sticky notes all over the lunchroom for the staff. Other students took notice, too, according to Tubbs.

“We wanted to spread it like confetti so that the other kids would know that if one group of kids can do this, then the whole school can do it,” she said.

“We’re kind of like a secret club because they don’t know who’s doing these things,” Tubbs said.

The Lighthouse Team also does community projects. If they learn of a family in need, the team takes up a collection, rounds up clothing, shoes, school supplies, or other things to help the family.

Tubbs said that working with the Lighthouse team has changed her life. “It’s like my therapy,” she said. “And it’s free.”

When students come into SMS in the fifth grade, the Lighthouse sponsors ask teachers for a list of potential team members. Lighthouse Team members or sponsors normally interview higher grade prospects. 

“Kids come to the interview dressed up like it’s a big to-do,” she said.

Selection is not based on academic achievement but on how the students lead and how they step up to the plate in times of need, according to Tubbs.

The Lighthouse Team reads to the children in the Head Start Program.

“The team loves reading to the Head Start kids,” Tubbs said. “We always leave them with a good thought and a sucker.”

A project that Tubbs would like to do later on this year is to have the Lighthouse Team help Backyard Blessings fill backpacks for students served by that program.

“I believe we’ll be reading a lot of great things about the kids coming through SMS,” Tubbs said.