Ralls County Elementary School students join guests from area schools to put 7 habits into motion with presentations during Kids Leadership Conference

Students at Ralls County Elementary School led activities and learned from guest speakers about the FranklinCovey 7 Habits of Happy Kids on Thursday during a school-wide Kids Leadership Conference (KLC).

Ralls County Elementary School is a Leader in Me School, and students led presentations and heard from guest speakers including Sgt. Eric Brown from the Missouri State Highway Patrol; Chris Nation, plant manager with Bunge North America; and father and son authors Mason and Larry Hagner from St. Louis. Down each hallway, presentations focused on different habits — be proactive, begin with the end in mind, put first things first, think win-win, seek first to understand, then to be understood, synergize and sharpen the saw.

Guidance Counselor Diana Duckworth said 70 students came from Louisiana, Macon, Vandalia, South Shelby and Hannibal. Ralls County Elementary School students led eight activities, including a hydrodipping art activity taught by students in Jessica Armour's Special Education class, applying paint to water-dipped card stock to make keepsakes with the KLC logo.

Beginning with the End in Mind — Jessica Armour's class

Armour and Elementary Art Teacher Kelsey Gerveler were impressed with the leadership skills the students demonstrated as they showed their guests how to create the colorful art.

“We were really proud of our kiddos, they did a PowerPoint presentation, and then our students became teachers,” she said. “One kiddo said, 'I've never been a teacher before, Mrs. Armour,' so I said, 'Good, today's your day.'” Gerveler said she was impressed with the students' leadership skills as well.

“It was good to see, because I'm usually the one teaching the art lessons in here,” she said. “It was cool to see the students take leadership and take the reins.”

Think Win-Win — Mason and Larry Hagner

Mason Hagner and his father, Larry, talked about how Mason thought win-win as he played football. At first, he was thinking about giving up, but he decided to persevere. He wrote a book called “Never Give Up” about his decision and his love of playing football. He answered several questions about what it was like not to give up, and the students in the audience said they learned to remain dedicated to the goals they set.

Be Proactive — Sgt. Eric Brown, Missouri State Highway Patrol

Brown showed students videos highlighting his message of being proactive by making good decisions, and how decisions made can “carry on for the rest of your life.” He showed a video of a high-speed car chase that ended with the vehicle flying several yards. Brown stressed that the two occupants of the car made one good decision that saved their lives — they buckled their seatbelts. But the man and his girlfriend received prison terms for their decisions to steal a vehicle, attempt to evade state troopers and drive recklessly.

He also showed a video with a young man being bullied at Burger King and stressed the importance of speaking up or helping a victim of bullying. Only 12 percent of customers in the restaurant offered support to the youth who was bullied.

Fourth grade student J.R. Henderson said he took away the lesson “not to break the law, because serious consequences could happen.” Brown said he enjoyed the chance to share the importance of making proactive decisions.

“It's a good opportunity, any time we get to talk to our youth,” he said. “A setting like this is really good, because we get to talk with so many kids in the same day, and they get to hear so many presentations from leadership. And we hope that they all learn something, and it helps them in their future with making good decisions and being as successful as they can.”

Put First Things First — Bunge North America

Nation and fellow employee Scott Atkison talked with students about safety practices and equipment, showing their face masks, steel-toed boots, hard hats, safety glasses, gloves and high-visibility clothing. They demonstrated how to safely load and store grain, stressing the importance of teamwork and being safe. They reminded the students about the dangers of sharp augers that move grain, hidden air pockets inside grain terminals and how they check the condition of grain through an exterior door instead of going inside. Ralls County Elementary School fourth grade students Joey Bailey and Gavin Mitchell shared what they learned.

“Putting first things first is thinking about what you're going to do, and how it would react,” Joey said.

“Do your homework before you play,” Gavin said.

Begin With the End in Mind — Ms. Stratton's class

Fourth grade student Evie Bickel said this was her first year at Ralls County Elementary School, and she said that the seven habits helped her make new friends and overcome her initial nervousness. She worked with fellow students to set up a “hidden design” activity — one student has a design made from blocks, and the other student must listen closely to the directions to arrange their loose blocks into the same design. She said she enjoyed talking meeting new people and leading by talking loudly and clapping, and she said she is glad that she's at Ralls County Elementary School with her cousins, Justin Bergthold, Isabelle Bergthold,, Maggie Bergthold, Teddy Bergthold and Jared Bergthold.

“I wanted to step up and be a leader,” she said. “This school has the seven habits that we need to get used to. Being a leader is part of the things that we need in our lives, because leaders are everywhere you need people to do the right thing.”

Duckworth said students from each of the schools made new friends as they demonstrated their leadership skills.

“It was a fun day just to see the students stepping up to be leaders,” she said.

trevor.mcdonald@courierpost.com