The S.O.E. Leadership Academy
Why “The School of Esther?”
“The School of Esther” is the premier program of The Gold Medallion Foundation. Renamed the “S.O.E. Leadership Academy,” the program continues in popularity as a “rite of passage” for many parents and teens as they prepare to enter adulthood. A rite of passage marks a significant change in the life of children and youth. In North America, typical rites of passage are baptisms, bar mitzvahs and school graduations. Particularly in southern states in the United States, the debutante cotillion party is also considered a rite of passage, marking a time of transition from childhood to adulthood. Not only is it a time to announce a transition in life stages but to also affirm personal values and dominant religious beliefs.
The S.O.E. Leadership Academy brand was borne out of not only an acknowledgement of tradition but a heart of compassion for our children. Almost daily we read alarming statistics that reveal the realities of broken homes, incarcerated youth and shattered dreams for parents and teens alike. Today’s youth have a need for guidance and support. The answers we seek require the wisdom of parents, teachers, ministers, friends and professionals who care enough to mentor, teach and train. The urgency of the times requires that we look back and learn from those who have travelled this way before. It is there that we find youth like Esther who with devotion and obedience saved her people from death and destruction.
Esther was a Jewish teen who had been orphaned by war. She lived in Persia with her cousin Mordecai during the fifth century B.C. Her Hebrew name was Hadassah, which Mordecai forbade her to disclose, for fear of hostility toward her Jewish heritage in a Babylonian state. Out of what could be considered a combination of fate and providence, Hadassah was tragically forced from her home and chosen to be the Queen of Persia. Her new name became Esther, which means “star.” Remaining faithful to her God and her promise of secrecy, Esther and Mordecai gained favor with the King and his province and rose from obscurity to prominence, allowing her influence to reverse a decree of death over her Jewish countrymen.
The potential and courage that God has invested in many of our teens today is just as noble and fearless. Gender does not matter. God is looking for a heart that believes. Although the hardships that many of our youth face today are just as challenging, God again grants favor to those who believe.
The SOE Leadership Academy Core Values
Academy leaders and instructors will endeavor to embrace the importance of faith, courage, compassion, respectful behavior and the art of diplomacy as recorded in scripture in the book of Esther. We are committed to work together as professionals, mentors, family and friends in support of our next generation leaders in the following ways:
- Teach the character building skills of civility and decorum as key elements to positive socialization
- Develop an awareness of the importance of oral and written communication skills
- Teach the value of money and wealth-building as a key component of a productive life
- Promote healthy lifestyles by introducing personal hygiene; fitness and nutrition
- Provide academic enrichment; exposure to visual & performing arts as well as travel
- Share resources and information related to preparation for jobs and careers that match student interests and skill sets
- Encourage thoughtful and healthy decision-making skills when dealing with male/female relationships
- Attract instructors and professionals who model Christian character, enabling them to become ambassadors of the message
Leadership Roles and Responsibilities
- The CEO, Board of Trustees and Advisory Board will work together to provide structure, guidelines and fiscal oversight for the success of the S.O.E. Leadership Academy and other GMF programs.
- The Advisory Board will provide spiritual oversight, wise counsel, financial resource and community outreach support to insure organizational success.
- Parents are encouraged to provide spiritual, moral and financial support to help students prepare for maximized learning.
What do students learn in S.O.E. Academy?
SOE SpeakOff Competition:
Teens have important ideas and a fresh perspective on life. We encourage them to “be the change” they want to see in the world. The annual speech competition allows participants to gain confidence in the art of self expression. After five weeks of preparation and training, teens present a 3 minute oratorical speech related to a given topic. Three judges and a time keeper determine 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners. Competitors and parents alike walk away surprised and amazed after witnessing significant growth and development in the art of public speaking.
Facing the Mirror: Personal Hygiene, Appearance, Health & Nutrition
It only takes 30 seconds to make a positive or negative impression. Good grooming and appearance are important keys to access and opportunity. Gentlemen learn to tie a tie for those special occasions and young ladies learn tips for make-up; how to address figure challenges and more. Facing the mirror with confidence also means learning exercise daily and how to prepare nutritious meals. We provide an introduction to total fitness to include body, soul and spirit.
Everyday Manners, Business Etiquette & Dining with Dignity
To gain the competitive edge in business and social life, it is essential to know the basic rules of social and business decorum. Academy “teenshops” focus on interpersonal skills to include how to proper handshakes, eye contact, making small talk and how to approach an interview. Informal and formal dining etiquette sessions include how to set a table, proper table manners and finally a restaurant tutorial dining lesson.
Professional Formal/Social Dance Lessons
Learning to lead and learning to follow is foundational to leadership development. Weekly ballroom dance lessons include professional instruction in salsa, cha cha, Rumba, waltz and /or two step. Gentlemen learn how to respect a lady on the dance floor and ladies learn to show gracious behavior in return. The fun really begins on graduation night with the Gala of Stars black tie formal dinner dance where students present an unforgettable showcase dance.
Weekly Sessions on Building Positive Male/Female Relationships
Creating healthy male /female relationships is essential during early adolescent and teen development. As media and the arts continue to glamorize recreational sex, teens suffer disproportionately and fall victim to STD’s, HIV, prostitution, suicide and shattered dreams. Mastering the art and value of meaningful friendships is a masterful tool to combat teen exploitation. We offer information, education and the support of caring mentors and friends to build healthy attitudes and relationships that last a lifetime.
Financial Literacy & Career Explorations:
While many teens will go on to college after high school, some have alternative art and trade school ambitions. No matter the choice, students are encouraged to focus on the future. Learning to begin a savings account and how to “make a dollar grow is an important key when preparing for higher education. During this session, college and career professionals provide mentoring moments and access to valuable financial, college and career information.