NATIONAL RENAISSANCE STAFFULTY OF THE MONTH: NOVEMBER – DR. FARAH MEADOWS

This month’s National Renaissance Staffulty of the Month is Dr. Farah Meadows from Indio High School in Indio, California. Farah has been involved with Jostens Renaissance for eight years, and her passion for students and Renaissance shines as she tells her story.

What’s a favorite Renaissance moment for you?
In 2014, I moved to a new middle school where I became the Activities Director and Renaissance Adviser. Some of the students in the leadership class were a bit rough when I met them for the very first time on the first day of school. They didn’t want to participate in icebreakers with me and didn’t know a lot about the mission of Renaissance. I thought to myself, “This is going to be a looooong year!” While the school had a Renaissance class prior to my arrival, they never had a Renaissance Rally before. I was nervous and excited at the same time about implementing the first ever Renaissance Rally at this school. Over the next few months, I saw this group of individual students turn into a team of leaders. One of my all-time favorite Renaissance moments was when they put on their first rally, based on the movie Grease. As the Renaissance leaders presented the rally “Grades are the word,” I was blown away by what they produced. They wrote and read the script, performed routines, recognized students and staffulty, and rewarded student progress. The looks on everyone’s faces let us know that we had done something great. These leaders truly gave a gift to the students and staffulty at this school. They began the tradition of the Renaissance Rally at Desert Ridge Academy and I couldn’t prouder!

How has Renaissance impacted your school’s culture?

The best way for me to explain how Renaissance has impacted our school is by sharing two events with you that we implemented this past year at Indio High School. Describing the two events will clearly show how they have changed our school and community.

During the summer of 2017, I attended the Jostens Renaissance National Conference. I was so excited to get back to my school (my first year returning to my alma mater) and implement the ideas I had learned about at the conference. We got to work right away on two new events that our school would host: The Special Ed Prom and the Senior Grad Bus Tour. The student leaders provided a free prom to our handicapped students and the event was simply amazing! As I looked at the students, both special education and leadership, with huge smiles on their faces as they took photos, ate dinner, and danced together, I couldn’t help but cry. My heart was bursting with joy because I knew that my leadership students had started something incredible. Students with disabilities are often overlooked in schools; however, they were the focus of our event and we wanted to make them feel like prom kings and queens. This event was about inclusion, acceptance, and love. I can honestly say in my eighteen years of being an educator, that this will go down as one of the top events I have ever had the honor of planning.

Our second event was the Rajah PRIDE Grad Bus Tour, which took place the week of graduation. The day the seniors received their caps and gowns, we loaded them onto buses and took them to all nine of our feeder schools so they could parade around in their caps and gowns. The seniors felt like rock stars for their accomplishments as they walked the halls of their past middle and elementary schools. The middle school and elementary students got the opportunity to see role models who look just like them. The younger students saw themselves in the graduates and realized they too can achieve the goal of graduation. To top it off, we had “Senior Staff Select” awards where each senior gave an honorary diploma to a current or past staffulty member on this day to thank them for helping them reach their goal of graduation. This was an event that brought our community together. While other schools have accomplished this before with only one or two feeder schools, Indio High School was able to reach all of our major feeder schools on this day. There is no question that our school and our community is all about getting every student to graduate!

How has Renaissance affected you personally?
Renaissance means FAMILY in every sense of the word. For some reason, during my first year at Desert Ridge Academy, my Renaissance leaders decided to call me mom. I thought it was a bit odd, but it stuck and they continued to call me mom throughout the year. I am actually the very proud mother of two student leaders, John and Brandon Meadows. Tragically, my older son, John, was killed in a car accident on February 16th, 2015. At my son’s services, my principal and staffulty showed up to support me and my family. I was surprised to see them. My principal said, “Oh, we aren’t the only ones here,” and raised his hand, signaling to the crowd. Several rows of my student leaders stood together in silence, as a united family, showing me their unconditional love. I was in tears as I saw their faces. When I returned to work three weeks later, these same student leaders were waiting for me at the front gate with a banner that said “Welcome Home.” They greeted me, hugged me, and said they loved me…they even called me mom. I don’t know if these leaders will ever know how much I needed to hear the words, “I love you, mom” on days I wish I could had heard my angel son say them. My younger son, Brandon, said it best, he didn’t lose a brother that year. instead, he gained an entire class of brothers and sisters. I truly love my Renaissance and ASB family!

What advice would you give to someone just starting with Renaissance?

I have three pieces of advice for new or veteran advisers:

First, don’t do this job alone! Yes, you might be able to do it on your own, but DON’T! You need to build your tribe of change agents who can help transform your school with you. There are amazing staffulty and students who will help you along the way. Go find them – they exist!

Second, my Jostens Yearbook representative, Chris Joy, said it best, “Renaissance is not about you, it is because of you.” Being a Renaissance Adviser and/or Activities Director are often thankless jobs. You will work long hours for very little pay. You will rarely get praise, if any. However, the reward for what you do doesn’t come in the form of a paycheck or a plaque, it comes in the faces of kids and staffulty who feel invisible and are now being recognized. It comes in the form of a student who wanted to give up along the way, but is now beaming with pride on graduation day when they walk across the stage. It comes in the form of the growth you see in your student leaders as they selflessly seek out ways to improve the lives of students and staffulty on your campus. You may never be rich or be publicly praised for all that you do, but the rewards are the greatest because you, my dear, are a Renaissance Adviser!

Third, always remember your WHY. There will be moments when staff complain, things don’t go as planned, or you feel burned out. Just breathe and remember your WHY. We do this for our kids (our students). We help our leaders create campuses of love and inclusion. We may just be one activity, one act of kindness, or one smile away from changing a student’s life forever! Keep going! You are making a difference! YOU ARE CHANGING YOUR SCHOOL AND YOU ARE CHANGING LIVES!

Farah will receive a shirt and a lapel pin, and was entered into a drawing for free registration to this year’s Jostens Renaissance National Conference.

To nominate someone in your school for the National Renaissance Staffulty of the Month honor, click here.

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