Thompson High School invites the Mathews Center to host a Students’ Institute for the school’s annual Leadership Retreat.

The half-day event was the first in a series of four workshops that will give ninth through twelfth grade students the opportunity to engage with their peers in developing civic projects for Thompson High School and the Alabaster community.

The first meeting prompted students to consider what it means to be an active member of their community. Cristin Brawner, Executive Director, asked students what words come to mind when they think of “leader” or “active citizen.” A flurry of answers erupted from the crowded lunchroom. Leaders are determined; they are someone who others will follow; they make more leaders. Students also cited qualities such as teamwork, motivation, respect for one another, good communication, and open-mindedness, as the most important qualities for community members to possess.

As for an active citizen? They volunteer, set a good example for others, make change, get to know the people around them, and help the people around them. “Do you see a connection between the two?” Cristin asked. Yes, heads nodded. One student said, “both inspire greatness.”

“We love working with groups of students like you, because you’re the future civic leaders of Alabama,” Cristin concluded.


Students also considered the assets and challenges that face their school and community. Among the most treasured assets students mentioned were the wide range of sports and activities available to the student body, the school’s diversity, the students’ enthusiastic spirit, and the outstanding faculty, staff, and administrators.

After considering assets, and challenges, Thompson students explored ways in which they could make a difference at their school. If they could do a project together to build upon existing assets, what would it be?

The students’ enthusiasm and inventiveness did not disappoint. Students put forward projects designed to foster better communication and increase participation in sports, academic, and club events. They proposed a number of service and fundraising ideas, mentoring activities for younger students, and diversity and life skills initiatives.

Dr. Hester, Principal of Thompson High School, commended the students for their collaborative ideas and offered administrative support to their budding initiatives. Hester encouraged them to stay committed to the process of making change:

“Ideas mean nothing without action.”


Written by Gabby Lamplugh and Laura Vickery, Civic Fellows