Race and fun run help fund program that teaches leadership skills to Black Mountain's youngest students

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For the second time in as many years, a race is being held to mold a young generation of Black Mountain resdients into leaders.

The Lead the Way 5K Run/Walk is returning to Black Mountain Primary on Saturday, May 6. The run, which drew around 150 runners a year ago, raises funds for a program built around the idea that all children can learn to lead.

The Leader in Me, billed as a “whole school transformation process,” is offered by the training organization Franklin Covey Co., the company behind the business management book “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” The Leader in Me program takes aspects of the book and adapts them to a school setting.

As Black Mountain Primary set out last year to become a Leader in Me school, third-grade teacher Leigh Hutchins and kindergarten teacher Kelsey Parker began organizing a 5K to support the cause.

“We were trying to raise money to start the program at our school,” she said. “I’ve taught here for 10 years and I’ve been wanting to do a 5K fundraiser for a long time because health and wellness are very important to me. This was a great theme to develop one around.”

The school’s Parent Teacher Organization committed to providing some of the funding for the leadership program, which includes extensive training for staff. The race, organized by Parker and Hutchins with the help of students, raises money to help make up the difference.

The Leader in Me training focuses on building healthy leadership habits in teachers, who pass the practices on to the students in the kindergarten through third-grade school, Hutchins said.

“It starts with the staff,” she said. “From there it evolves into ‘how can we create a student leadership environment in the school?’”

The school focuses on a habit each week, adapting the curriculum to the needs of the youngest students to the oldest.

“We’re teaching them the same habit each week,” Hutchins said. “The great thing is that these habits benefit the kids beyond just the school setting.”

An example of that benefit cited by Hutchins is the habit of beginning with the end in mind, which involves planning for the future you envision.

“Well, that applies to us as adults well,” she said. “I want to get my lesson plans done so I can leave on Friday. We make these concepts relate to the kids.”

The Lead the Way 5K on the Montreat Road sidewalks and the Flat Creek Greenway behind the school will also have a shorter fun run that the students can participate in.

“We’re having them make the announcements at school,” Hutchins said. “They are excited have this race be part of the community.”

Students at the school designed the T-shirts for the event, which begins at 2:45 p.m. with a 5K for students and a fun run. The community 5K will begin at 3 p.m. Prizes will be awarded for the top three men and women finishers, and the top two from age groups six and under up to 70-plus.

Participants will gather in the field on the east side of the primary school, according to Parker, who added that activities would include face painting and an inflatable bounce house.

Registration is open until 12:15 p.m. on the day of the race and can be found at runsignup.com by searching "Lead the Way 5K Run/Walk."

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