In a ceremony in the South Gym on Sunday, August 24, 2014, a new Touchstone for Activities was unveiled to students as a way to kick off the second year of J-Hawk Foundations.
A touchstone expresses an organization’s collective commitment to live according to its espoused values. It provides an organizational map and compass on its journey toward becoming an intentional culture of excellence and ethics. Studies from the business and non-profit world show the power of a touchstone to promote shared purpose and identity. In Good to Great, Jim Collins reports that companies making the leap from good to great performance had formed a corporate culture typically expressed in a touchstone—a creed or “way.” This “way” expresses the core values of the organization, helps its members feel connected to each other through these values, and is the glue that holds the organization together and keeps it focused, even during turbulent times.
This Touchstone is unique in that it was developed entirely by students in the Emerging Leaders program, a group of students that are actively involved in J-Hawk Foundations over the summer. These students spent the better part of six hours at a leadership retreat developing and perfecting this Touchstone.
J-Hawk Foundations was developed after a four year search for a program that could be implemented within our athletic program that provided a resource for leadership development. Our research provided very few options and in reality, there were no programs that focused on what we were looking for – most were simply a prevention program for drug and alcohol abuse.
Together with the Institute for Excellence and Ethics out of New York and the Institute for Character Development located here in Des Moines, Iowa, the Activities Department created J-Hawk Foundations and launched our program in the fall of 2013.
Our intent was twofold behind developing an intentional culture rooted in excellence. First, we wanted to provide our students in athletics with something more than an experience focused on winning and losing. We wanted to provide them with the skills to succeed beyond high school; we wanted to develop leaders of character. Second, we wanted to provide our teams and groups with a competitive advantage over our opponents.
Through our first year, our focus on “The Secret Ingredient” led us to discover the power of the individual and a focus on individual development and growth. Our journey led us down a path where we tackled issues related to integrity, stress, and communication, and our students developed skills and strategies to lead more effectively in the classroom, on the athletic field or court, and in life beyond the walls of high school.
In the 2014-2015 school year, students in all Activities (both the athletics and performing arts) at Urbandale High School are invited and encouraged to participate in this program that provides opportunities for individual growth that can then be applied in a team or group setting.
The first session of J-Hawk Foundations in 2014 will be held on September 10, 2014, at 2:30pm in the Performing Arts Center; the topic will be Focus.