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New program leading towards Bethesda’s future

Published: May. 16, 2022 at 12:14 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - There’s a little more than a week left in the school year at Bethesda Academy and it has been an important one at the all-boys school.

The introduction of a leadership development program impacted the lives of several young men this year and could soon bring new direction to all Bethesda students.

After 182 years, Bethesda Academy is still looking to the future - including its own, one-hour a day through 10 percent of its student body.

“We talk a lot about the transformation of Bethesda, from the old Bethesda to the new Bethesda. And so, the new Bethesda, what we want to do is be a preeminent school in the nation for turning out good servant-leader young men who are high moral character, they’re civic minded and they’re grounded in their faith. That’s what we’re after,” said Ken Vaughn, Bethesda Academy Director of Leadership.

And that new Bethesda concept is being formed through a new program at the school, the Leadership Development Initiative - started this year with 12 students who meet in classroom and real-world settings for academic, spiritual and character-building exercises.

“That whole idea of figuring out what the mission is, being part of the solution and not part of the problem, being a young man who takes the initiative and really acts based on their character,” said Michael Hughes, Bethesda Academy President.

“It’s an interesting study in character enhancement. There is some critical thinking being developed. There’s some emotional maturity being developed in there. There’s a lot of good stuff going on.”

“We’ve picked the best we’ve got, the best overall young men not only academically, but from a leadership perspective, behavior perspective and character perspective.”

“Be more like Christ. Want to be more like Christ, don’t we? That’s the goal.”

Faith is at the center of interactive lesson seminars that drive home Bethesda’s Code of Conduct.

“Love of God, love of learning and a strong work ethic.”

And studying everyday heroes practicing those principles gets the group talking - and thinking.

“It’s given me my drive. It’s given me skills I believe I’ll need no matter what I go into in life. And most importantly, it’s renewed my faith in God,” said Chad Grefski, senior in Leadership Initiative.

“It shows how people are and how I can become that,” said Chase Holiday, 7th grader in Leadership Initiative

Leadership Initiative members often give up weekend days to community service - and throughout the program sixth graders through high school seniors work together, the older students gaining leadership experience by guiding younger students.

“We call it a brotherhood. The older boys treat the younger boys like their older brothers.”

These students are working on themselves in the Leadership Development Initiative. But they are also working on what Bethesda will become, as this pilot program will be extended to the entire student body beginning next school year to continue building that new Bethesda concept.

“Our goal is in a couple of years to consider changing the name from Bethesda Academy to Bethesda Leadership Academy, where it’s such a core component of what we do.”

“We’ve been kind of amazed at how it’s taken off in the lives of our kids. Our parents tell us, we’ve seen change. We’ve seen things.”

“I think this has a chance to really make a difference in renewing us for our next 282 years.”

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