The Empowerment Initiative that 'ROCKED' a Community
The Ocean City School District celebrates a strong team of female educators who have amassed quite an impressive list of professional accomplishments. As superintendent, I am proud each time a team member earns recognition, but my greatest source of pride comes from how these women unite to inspire greatness in others.
Imagine my excitement when they drew from their individual successes to collectively develop a new empowerment initiative, which rolled out to our district this fall. Aptly named, “WE ROCK,” the campaign celebrates how each student, staff member, and community partner is unique and valued. All are made to feel like they are part of a larger whole, and that they are respected for their specific addition to the collective group. We emphasize that we are rooting for their success, which is not reflected by a number on data charts, but their pursuit and attainment of their unique interests and goals.
The gifted educators, who brought this initiative to life, have created a program that both captivates and engages participants in a way that addresses their central motivations and ultimately helps them realize their worth. Other districts drawn to the mission could replicate many of its components.
“WE ROCK” began with hand-painted messages on rocks designed to inspire, motivate, and encourage those who saw them. Organizers strategically placed them throughout the district so that anyone who passed by could capture a bit of their magic.
Not only was this idea revered, it was completely embraced. District-wide, students, teachers, and administrators personalized rocks with their own inspirational words to live by. The effort served as a powerful display of unity around our mission of empowerment. These rocks now fill our district buildings with messages reinforcing acts of doing good, working hard, setting goals, and succeeding.
To further show support for the campaign and unity around its mission, those involved designed “WE ROCK” t-shirts. We all wear them the first Monday of every month for the We Matter Monday to help maintain our momentum.
We have even started sending our “WE ROCK” shirts, as well as specially designed certificates, to individuals, businesses, and organizations outside of our district whose actions have positively influenced our Ocean City community and beyond. Our goal is to recognize the countless acts of good happening around us that align with our “WE ROCK” mission to foster a more expansive environment of inclusivity and positivity. We also highlight the accomplishments of these outside individuals and entities on our social media channels.
A prime example of “WE ROCK” in the community involves Delta Airlines. After learning that another airline had cancelled a flight taking Ocean City’s cross-country teams to an event in Orlando, Delta stepped in. The airline offered to fly a private plane into Philadelphia and charter the High School boys’ and girls’ cross-country teams, including coaches and teammates’ families, to Orlando for Disney’s invitational race at the ESPN Wide World of Sports. A special detail to note, Delta does not normally fly from Philadelphia to Orlando, but after locating an available plane and crew to make the journey, the airline got all 79 people to Orlando in time for the race. As a result, the boys’ varsity and junior varsity teams both won first place out of the 78 competing high schools, the girls’ varsity team took second place, and girls’ junior varsity took fourth. As a thank you to the Delta family, we reached out with messages of sincere gratitude and sent “WE ROCK” shirts for their employees.
In just a short time, the “WE ROCK” campaign has spread throughout our district and far beyond to create a powerful and positive movement. Our amazing female educators have led the way. Through their collaboration, they have developed a model program that is prime for replication at the school, district, community, and state levels.
Replication of “WE ROCK” - and its continuation at Ocean City – will further provide positive messaging and examples for students to follow as the narratives of success expand. This will help learners develop confidence to create and successfully pursue purpose-driven learning pathways, and ultimately steer the courses of their lives. Long-term, it can help ensure that efforts to adapt or transform the education system will position learners and organizations for future success.