Timothy Jordan wanted to make a difference in the lives of young students who might not have college on their radar. Ursinus College’s Students Today Into Leaders Tomorrow STILT initiative started in 2011, when Jordan had the idea to hold leadership workshops at local schools as a potential project for Ursinus Enactus (Formerly Students in Free Enterprise SIFE).
“I was motivated to start the STILT program by attending the National SIFE (now Enactus) competition my freshman year and seeing all of the projects other schools were doing and their impact on their surrounding community,” says Jordan. “Many of the projects were international and involved enabling poor or suffering populations to make better lives for themselves. While Ursinus SIFE did not have the money or manpower to help international populations, I saw a chance to impact at-risk communities closer to home.”
Along with other members of the SIFE board, including Ty Wetzel, Becca Kamm, Corey Barkers, and Tony Rosa, the students started thinking about ways to help the students of the Norristown School District. The best way to impact the middle school students, they decided, was to create a goal setting and leadership initiative that would push the students towards college and a better future.
The idea came to life in February of 2011, when seven Ursinus students visited Stewart Middle School to teach about setting goals and teamwork. The visit included guest speaker Tisa Silver, a time management best seller. The template for STILT’s in-school sessions was created after the success of this session.
STILT took feedback from their first session and returned in April of 2011 with a new group of activities for the middle school students to enjoy with a focus on preparing for high school and college. This session included activities such as writing a letter to their future selves, as well as introducing the “design a candy bar” activity, which combined the ideas of each session and allowed the students to express their creativity.
The following summer, Jordan met with the principals of East Norriton Middle School and Eisenhower Leadership Academy, explaining STILT’s goals and how it could help their schools. STILT and the Norristown middle schools scheduled three sessions at each school, with the first centered on planning for the future and goal setting, the second on teamwork, and the last on leadership. Now, all eighth grade students in the Norristown school district will be able to share this experience, which will give them a common bond when they arrive at Norristown High School.
STILT is currently focused on expanding its roster by recruiting leaders and strong role models on campus. The group has grown from eight to 51 members. STILT contacted several new guest speakers, including Ursinus Head Basketball Coach Kevin Small and Ursinus Football Coach Peter Gallagher.
In the last two years the group has held sessions at Eisenhower, East Norriton and Stewart middle schools. The sessions all focused on planning for the future and setting goals. While Jordan was abroad in Spring of 2012, Tony Rosa stepped up and continued the success of the initiative by directing sessions at all three schools. As leaders like Jordan, Barkers, and Rosa look to graduate this spring, STILT is beginning to look forward to the next generation. Jordan is working with John Spencer, Associate Professor and Chair of the Education Department, to create a partnership that would be benefit both the STILT program and the goals of the education department. Participating in a STILT session as a student mentor can now count as classroom observation hours for education majors and is advertised in all education classes.
“I chose Ursinus because I liked all the opportunities it had for me to explore my hobbies and passions,” says Jordan, who is also the school’s Assistant Residence Director. “I could attend a prestigious and rigorous academic school while still playing a sport and music, and developing my entrepreneurial skills.”