Upper School Principal Trip Cogburn and Assistant Principal Margot Moses are not only educators, they’re incubators of innovation. For years they’ve led the Upper School through some of its most challenging years, all while quietly planning a program that will change the lives of Carolina Day students and the trajectories of their future careers.
The Leadership, Entrepreneurship, and Development (LEAD) program is “a 4-year course of study designed to provide students with the lifelong skills necessary for success in a rapidly changing world. Through a diverse set of learning opportunities, students will acquire the necessary skills to be effective leaders as they pursue their individualized entrepreneurial passions.” It was born from Moses’s and Cogburn’s desire to help CDS students identify their professional and philanthropic interests, learn the soft and hard skills necessary to support those interests, and build something concrete for their communities to benefit from. When the two principals sat down to map out the program’s infrastructure, however, they found they didn’t have much work to do.
“We thought about this program a long time ago, but when we went down to put it together it kind of built itself because of the classes we offer,” Moses explains. “I think that is pretty amazing when you think about it….it’s not like we’re creating it from scratch. A lot of the pieces were already there.”
Courses like Civics, Civil Rights, and Citizenship; Applied Ethics; Biosocial Ethics and Motives; and Competitive Speech and Debate are designed to work in concert to expose CDS students to the complex and nuanced issues they’ll have to face once they’ve graduated. In addition, they’re designed to equip students with the skills to successfully navigate these issues with competence, confidence, and genuine curiosity. It’s Moses’s and Cogburn’s hope that exposure to these complex topics will help students uncover something that they’re passionate about, a problem that they want to solve. Then, George Batten’s Introduction to Entrepreneurship class will provide them the skills they’ll need to one day start a business, found a nonprofit, or create a B-corp.
This structure culminates in a final Capstone project students tackle their senior year. Partnering with a local Asheville business, nonprofit, or B-corp relevant to their project interest, students will engage in guided mentorships, internships, and/ or apprenticeships meant to build the skills necessary for the creation of and/or running of a business or nonprofit. Local Asheville partners will then help provide resources for CDS seniors to build something real, lasting, and resume-worthy, like the support group senior Anna McCrary is creating in partnership with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). As the first student to complete all the requirements necessary for the LEAD program, McCrary’s project serves as both the blueprint and inspiration for future LEADers. Having identified a problem she’s passionate about solving, McCrary first sought out NAMI to help her create a one-time event, a walk to spread both awareness and raise money for mental health resources for the Hispanic population in Asheville. Since she’s begun working with NAMI, however, her project has grown exponentially.
Now, she’s creating a support group for Hispanic Ashevillians struggling with their mental health, a free resource that she hopes builds awareness, creates community, and reduces the stigma attached to mental illness. In just a few short months, McCrary has cultivated professional email communication skills, cold calling confidence, and the ability to craft complicated documents like Memorandums of Understanding, all valuable and highly sought after abilities that will shine on McCrary’s resume as she prepares to apply for college and then enter the workforce post college.
“We know that a very high percentage of [CDS students] go off and start something new, create their own business, take an idea that they’ve had for a long time and turn it into something that the world needs and that can make them a profit,” says Cogburn. “And I think it’s because of the sort of incubator for innovation that we have here at the Upper School—the way we teach—sort of fosters some of that. And so we wanted to lean into that a little bit harder, and more purposefully provide the skills students would need to go out and do those types of things after they leave here.”
In many ways, the LEAD program is a natural continuation of the CDS PK-8 Leadership Framework. It’s a conscious effort by Cogburn and Moses to give students an opportunity to take all the research from their Impact AVL projects from Grade 8 and move into an actionoriented phase. For most Grade 8 students, Impact AVL is their first thorough and concentrated understanding of systemic issues plaguing their city. They engage in high-level research to uncover the many interconnected causes of these issues, and they’re able to propose theoretical solutions. LEAD allows them to actively pursue those solutions in a highly supportive environment.
“I think that’s what this program allows us to do,” says Cogburn, “is have students leave here with less gaps in terms of their ability to go out and do outside-the-box things with their life, whether that be in college or beyond.”
Boiled down, this new program comes from Cogburn’s and Moses’s shared desire to see Carolina Day students thrive, and to provide opportunities to prepare them for the world while also helping them change it.