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Porter Ridge High achieves Lighthouse status, first high school in UCPS, second in the state

Porter Ridge High School has been designated a Leader in Me Lighthouse School, joining the ranks of more than 600 schools worldwide holding this distinction. It is the first high school in UCPS and the second high school in the state to achieve Lighthouse status. Union County Public Schools recognizes their exceptional leadership achievements and commitment to empowering students.

Leader in Me is an evidence-based school improvement model that empowers students with the leadership and life skills they need to thrive in the 21st century. Leader in Me operates on a theory of change known as the See-Do-Get Cycle. When you change the way you See things, it influences what you Do and results you Get.

The Lighthouse designation is a highly-regarded standard set by FranklinCovey that is attainable by every Leader in Me school. As it is a significant benchmark, applying for this certification typically occurs four to five years after a school begins the Leader in Me process.

On Monday, May 6, Principal Dr. Fisenne gathered students and staff in the media center for the surprise announcement. Superintendent Dr. Andrew Houlihan and senior leaders were also in attendance. 

“From school spirit to working in classrooms to making sure we challenge ourselves with our course work to advisory where we talk about life skills, to the student culture things the student council leads the way on, you have gotten all those ideas. We are so appreciative and glad you have a voice in your school. With that, I announce we have achieved Lighthouse status,” said Dr. Fisenne.

Those in attendance cheered and clapped at the great news as teachers walked out holding a banner congratulating them.  

The Lighthouse Team, including seniors Maggie Green, Harrison Johnson, and Robyn Harvey, has played a pivotal role since it began, witnessing remarkable growth and impact. The team's dedication and hard work have led to tangible results, reflecting the power of student voice in driving positive change within the school community.

"There is a lot of background work people don't see, so for us to be in the spotlight and have everyone see what we have accomplished and what we have done for our school is rewarding," said Robyn. 

Starting with 10 Lighthouse members, the team has grown to include 40 participants. As time passed, their meetings evolved from monthly to weekly sessions. The students attribute their growth and success to the guidance and encouragement provided by Emily Greer, a math teacher and their Lighthouse advisor.

"It's incredible to see how much our Lighthouse Team has grown and the impact we've had from when we first started to how small we were to how big we are and how big our outreach is now," said Maggie.

Students were excited to leave a legacy and inspire their school community with dedication and enthusiasm. Their collective energy resulted in a vibrant atmosphere of collaboration, empowerment, unity and purpose across the school.

"We were told if we wanted to see a change in our school to say it. We have been very vocal," said Harrison. "I'd tell others, 'Don't stop.' We've made so much progress. We have the spotlight now so keep going and make more changes. Keep listening to the students because it's gotten us to this point."

UCPS now has seven Lighthouse schools—Indian Trail Elementary, Rocky River Elementary, Benton Heights Elementary, Sun Valley Middle, Prospect Elementary, Sandy Ridge Elementary and Porter Ridge High.

Earlier in the year, Porter Ridge High was also among the schools visited during the Leader In Me Symposium 2024 in Charlotte, which united nearly 1,000 educators nationwide. Under the leadership of Dr. Fisenne, Porter Ridge played a pivotal role, highlighting the district's commitment to the program. Alongside other UCPS schools, students and staff from Porter Ridge showcased unique Leader In Me principles through personalized welcomes and engaging presentations, leaving a lasting impression on visitors.