The leadership structure at St. Benedict’s Preparatory School in Newark, N.J., is unique. Students make school decisions, lead their peers, and learn from their mistakes in a positive way. If this approach sounds familiar, it’s likely because the idea for the prep school’s structure came right out of the Boy Scout Handbook.
In a recent episode of 60 Minutes, journalist Scott Pelley tells the story of St. Benedict’s and how its student-based leadership system came to be established. Headmaster Edwin Leahy has created an environment at St. Benedict’s based on values found in Scouting.
Scouting Magazine Senior Editor Bryan Wendell outlined the 60 Minutes episode in a recent Bryan on Scouting blog post, explaining how the Boy Scout Handbook inspired the headmaster to create a learning environment. Wendell’s story details how values from the Scouting program actually play a significant role in the school’s methods.
At the base of St. Benedict’s leadership structure are organized groups of students, similar to the Scouting model. Students elect a peer leader from their group and the lessons in responsibility begin and school activities are even planned by youth leaders. In fact, the students are in charge of most day-to-day decisions.
“This is a large part of what makes St. Benedict’s rare and successful. Students are required to run much of the school,” Pelley reports.
The goal is for students to learn how to lead themselves by acting as the school’s governing body and as the episode shows, this technique is working. But leadership development isn’t the only thing at St. Benedict’s inspired by Scouting. In the spring, the school’s incoming students are given the opportunity to get to know upperclassmen as they lead them on a 55-mile Appalachian hike.
Pelley shows us how the Scout-modeled school has proven to be successful over time. The dropout rate at St. Benedict’s is significantly lower than schools in the surrounding city of Newark and 85% of St. Benedict’s graduates go on to earn a college degree.