Friday, January 11th, Thompson High School invited The David Mathews Center for Civic Life to share Students’ Institute programming at the high school’s first Leadership 300 meeting of 2019.

Dr. Wesley Hester, the principal at Thompson High School organizes and guides a group of 300 leaders, from across campus, to be change agents in their school and home community. Dr. Hester emphasizes student designed and student led projects in Thompson High School. These students represent different academic interests, extracurricular clubs, and demographics and bring unique perspectives as they work in small groups to create project proposals that aim to make their school and city a better place.

The David Mathews Center staff introduced the concept of naming, framing and deliberating community assets and challenges to a cafeteria full of students. Our staff encouraged the students to create groups to identify assets; mapping the people, places and organizations that make them proud to be a Thompson Warrior. Students discussed and created lists, webs, and drawings all showing what they love about their school and city. Many groups listed the faculty and staff of Thompson High School, the variety of student organizations, and the new facility on their note pads. One group believed the Alabaster Dog Park was an important asset.

Next, DMC staff asked students to identify challenges faced by students at THS and the citizens of Alabaster. Some of the challenges listed by students included disseminating information about engagement opportunities to students, addressing the mental health of students, and the length of cafeteria lines at lunch. Students shared their top challenge with the faculty, staff, and students gathered for this meeting.

Each team chose to address one challenge by creating an intervention strategy or project plan that could be implemented in THS or Alabaster and presented to the students and faculty gathered for Leadership 300. Groups developed plans to construct sidewalks from nearby neighbors to THS so students can walk to school and open up currently crowded busses, to install recycling bins around the school to build an ecofriendly environment, and to create an “Adulthood” class where students learn how to file taxes and manage a mortgage. Dr. Hester listened as all 24 groups presented their action plan and announced that he will follow up with each group to discuss their idea further.

Students’ Institute programming provides young Alabamians with the opportunity to deepen their understanding of active citizenship, explore assets and challenges within their community, and develop skills for more effective engagement.

The David Mathews Center looks forward to continuing to partner with Thompson High School and Leadership 300 to better prepare Alabama’s next generation of community leaders.

Written by Kate Mauldin, Civic Fellow

If you are interested in bringing a program like this to your school or community, you can email Gabrielle Lamplugh, Education Director, at for more information.