YAS- a Success!

Our Thanksgiving YAS project was a success! We had at least seven people share the YAS status, and over 90 YAS posts within the few days the project was active. Good job to everyone who posted a YAS status! We will do another round of YAS near the last week of December.

For everyone who missed it, YAS (You are Special) was a Leaders UNITE social media movement where people posted status on Facebook and posted on Instagram. Whenever someone ‘liked” the respective post, they would get a personalized message on their wall saying why they are special and important. People could “share” the status and post it as their own to continue the cycle to another group of people. On Thanksgiving day, Ivana and Julia posted multiple YAS messages on people’s walls randomly- whether they knew about the tradition or not! It was a great way to spread the holiday cheer!


YAS (You are Special)

In honor of Thanksgiving week, Leaders UNITE is launching our first YAS week. YAS stands for “You are Special.” This project is similar to Compliment Cards, but it is an online version. Ivana and Julia are posting facebook statuses about YAS. If you like the status, they will post a nice message on your facebook wall. They will do this if you like their status, but they will also be posting randomly on people’s walls. The message will start off, “YAS because…” Hopefully, once you receive the message, you will post your own status about YAS. We hope this really kicks off, and that this will be the first of many YAS opportunities.

How to Start Leaders UNITE at Your School

Steps to starting the club:

1. Get a teacher or faculty sponsor to help with the club.

2. Look at the page “2014-2015 Schedule” and read it down each column for a list of activities and discussions.

  • If you have a limited amount of club time, you can pick any activities and discussion prompts as long as you
  • Use all of the activities in bold font
  • Pick a few activities/discussion prompts from each of the 5 categories (UNITE)

3. Send an email to leadersuniteclub@gmail.com so you can be on the email list for club-wide volunteer opportunities and conferences!

4. Create a wordpress account (instructions on “FAQs” page) to connect with other schools and comment on discussion posts.


A Typical Leaders UNITE Club Meeting:

A Leaders UNITE club meeting could be run in any of the following ways:

Activities and Discussion

  • Starting with a short discussion prompt and spring-boarding into a similar activity (you could also end with a follow-up discussion

Long discussion

  • You could do one huge discussion for the whole club time (you can start with a given prompt, but feel free to venture into other, connected topics of discussion

Volunteer Opportunity

  • You could work on a volunteer project during club time (see some ideas under the “Community Activities” page)



  • This club does not involve any fees, so no need to worry about paying!
  • You will need some paper and pencils, so be sure to keep these handy. Contact leadersuniteclub@gmail.com if you need any assistance in purchasing these items.
  • This club can be done during school time, but if you school does not have club time, feel free to do this club before school or during after school hours.
  • All of the activities and discussions on the schedule are written in ” ” because they correspond to the names of posts under the “Activities” and “Discussion Questions” pages on the website!
  • Feel free to comment on any of the discussion posts, and start a discussion between you and other members of the club!

Leaders UNITE at Chesterbrook Academy- Reflection about Teamwork

I could not believe how sweet the children were! They were all very enthusiastic to try my activities and didn’t complain one bit when a strange, relatively tall teenager entered the room to give directions. As they walked into the room, the students proudly announced their names and asked me questions ranging from my name to my school. They were all so sweet!

There were a few instances that stuck out to me in my first session with these students, but this one stuck with me the most. The first activity I did with the younger (preschool-kindergarten) students was “Create Your Own Superhero.” I gave each group of two a sheet of paper. While some groups easily shared and created the superhero together, others had difficulty agreeing on a superhero and wouldn’t even share the paper with one another. I went up to one group of girls. One girl wanted to make a superhero like Wonder Woman and the other girl wanted to make a superhero like Elsa. They had each drawn their own superhero on the page. I explained to them that the activity was supposed to be about teamwork, and that they were supposed to create one superhero together. They were still reluctant. I asked each of them what they liked about their respective superhero and got an array of responses ranging from the superpowers to the clothing. I paused and then asked, “Why don’t you combine both of the superheroes-and everything you like about them- together to make a mega superhero!” The girls gasped with fascination and began their new project. As the end of the project, I was proud to return to the table and see a combined super hero with, “Wonder Woman combined with Elsa” written on the top of the page.

Leaders UNITE at Chesterbrook Academy

After much planning and rescheduling, yesterday was the launch of Leaders UNITE at Chesterbrook Academy preschool and elementary school. The club took place during the afterschool program, and the students were split into older (1st-5th grades) and younger (preschool-kindergarten) sections each with approximately 17 students. The students enjoyed acting, drawing, and learning about teamwork. Ivana’s reflections from the first session will be posted in the next blog entry. Stay tuned!

Ivana speaks about Leaders UNITE at the Cary Teen Council

Last night, Ivana spoke to over 30 teens about Leaders UNITE. After having Mr. Korey Sullivan (one of adults in charge of the council) come and speak to the Cary Academy branch of Leaders UNITE, Ivana was excited to return the favor. The members of the Cary Teen Council listened eagerly as she discussed the principles of the club and its fun activities. Hopefully, some of these students will start Leaders UNITE at their own schools. They are doing great things!


Q: How can I start Leaders UNITE at my school?

A. It’s very easy! Just talk to a teacher or counselor at your school and see what time of day you can do this club. Some schools have club time, so try to start this club during that time. If your school doesn’t have club time, try to start this club before or after school. Or even in a homeroom period. Ask you teacher to see what time works best. Find a faculty member who is willing to facilitate club time, and then you’ll be set! The 2014-2015 schedule is on the website, but feel free to add or eliminate activities based on the amount of club time you have. If you want to incorporate the club in another way feel free to email leadersuniteclub@gmail.com for suggestions. Even if everything is clear with the schedule, we still recommend that you email Leaders UNITE so that you can get updates about events in the area.


Q. How do I receive information and/or attend state-wide Leaders UNITE events?

A. To receive information about club-wide conferences, volunteer events, and guest speakers, email leadersuniteclub@gmail.com to be added to the email list. If you are starting the club at your school, I recommend doing this, so you can receive information easily.


Q. How do I respond to the discussion posts on the Leaders UNITE website?

A. We strongly recommend each branch of the club to share their insights on discussion questions in the form of a comment on the discussion post. In order to comment on the post, you must create a WordPress account (www.wordpress.com). Once you are logged in, you can go to the Leaders UNITE website and click “comment” under the specific post. We hope this section allows schools to gain different perspectives on major issues regarding leadership.


Q. Where is the 2014-2015 schedule and how do I use it?

A. The schedule is posted under the tab “2014-2015 Schedule.” The schedule will open in PowerPoint and goes vertically. For example, you start with all of the activities, discussion questions, etc. that are vertically under “Understanding.” Once your group has completed those, then you move on to “Nourishing,” etc. The activities and discussion prompts are all in quotation marks and therefore correspond to species posts under the “Activities” and “Discussion Questions” pages. If your club has limited time and needs to cut activities and discussion questions, feel free to do so. However, the activities/discussions in bold font are the ones that your club should not cut from the schedule.


Q. Is there an age requirement for students in the club?

A. No, students of any age group can start this club at their school. However, under the activity section, there are different tabs for elementary, middle, and high schools, so it is important to use the different tabs when doing activities for the club. We believe that you are never too young to learn how to be a leader, so we believe that students of any age can participate in this club.


Q. Currently, how many branches of Leaders UNITE are there?

A. There are 15 branches of the club in North Carolina that we know of. However, we have been in contact with 6 other schools in the state, 2 county-wide Teen Councils, 1 school in Maryland, a school in Argentina, and a school in Singapore. There are other branches that we have heard of, but they  have not provided contact information to Leaders UNITE, so we are unsure of further information. We hope to continue spreading this club to other schools!

Compliment Cards

We started a project called Compliment Cards at the Cary Academy High School branch of Leaders UNITE! It’s pretty simple, but the effect goes a long way! We set up a box near the Upper School office, where students or teachers can write positive notes of encouragement to other members of the school community. Members of Leaders UNITE pass out these cards during advisory periods with a little treat. Try this project at your school!

You can put anything on the Compliment Cards. It can be anything from a simple compliment about someone’s outfit, to a compliment about their latest achievements. Keep the notes positive, and you will surely bring a smile to someone’s face.

compliment cards box

How Leaders UNITE Has Impacted Me

Ivana founded Leaders UNITE over seven years ago, after attending a week-long leadership program. Ivana graduated from Duke University in May 2019, summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa with a BS in Biology, a BA in Spanish, and a minor in chemistry. Ivana returned to Duke in Fall 2020 to begin her first year of medical school at Duke University School of Medicine, where she will pursue her goal of becoming a cardiologist. Here is a brief excerpt from Ivana about why she founded Leaders UNITE and why she is so passionate about leadership for students:


Whenever someone asks me what inspired me to start Leaders UNITE, I talk about my desire to suppress the typical leadership stereotypes: that leadership is boring and that only talkative, assertive people can become successful leaders. However, I always find myself regressing to the same example. When I was a Peer Leader at the Shelton Leadership Challenge, I had one boy in my group who was extremely quiet and spent the first two days eating, walking, and mumbling by himself. As a Peer Leader, it was my job to be a liaison between the students and the counselor. I spent time talking to the boy, but he kept saying that he wouldn’t make a good leader and that the other students would just continue to laugh at him. He was terrified for the next day, where he was one of the assigned leaders. During the next day, the boy started out unable to speak a word; however, during our third activity, the boy finally opened his mouth. I wish I could remember exactly what he said, but I do remember that it had everyone laughing like crazy for the next few minutes. Only they weren’t laughing at him, they were laughing with him. The boy has an impeccable sense of humor! As we were walking to our next activity, I told the boy to use his witty personality to lead the group. By the end of the day, he had made ten new friends and was one of the group.


Situations like these inspire me to spread Leaders UNITE to as many locations as possible. The club prides itself on helping students become leaders- no matter their personality type. The five step process- understanding, nourishing, incorporating, teaching, and excelling- allows students to use their own personality as a strength and they are encouraged to feel comfortable being themselves. They are given opportunities to communicate with students from other schools, lead their own volunteer projects, listen to guest speakers, participate in club activities and discussions, and much more. The multifaceted nature of the club is what allows it to succeed. Every week, I seek the smile on students’ faces when they receive Compliment Cards from their teachers and friends. The gratitude continues when we perform for the residents of local retirement homes, where they thank us for visiting them when their families are out of town. Watching the children at the elementary school try to spell “resident” and put all of their effort into their glitter cards is all the more rewarding when the retirement home residents receive these cards and hang them up in their rooms. Hearing that one of the first members of my club had finally built up the confidence to run for a Student Council position made me feel proud of how my club had helped her grow in her public speaking abilities. Even watching the students participate in an organized discussion during club time and being considerate of one another’s opinions brings a smile to my face.


Although I created Leaders UNITE to help other students develop their own leadership skills, I never realized how much I would learn about myself from this project. I am a dreamer. I am a goal-oriented person, and I always set my goals high. But, I knew all of that before I started Leaders UNITE. What I have learned from starting the club is that I love the little things. I take the time to remember every moment and gratuitous feeling that happens to me throughout the day. I go out of my way to ask other how they are feeling and do everything I can to help others. I gain my positive energy from the smiles and impact I make throughout my day. And although I set many high goals for myself, I stay leveled by my appreciation of everything I can do to help other people. The experiences that Leaders UNITE has provided me have brought a sense of balance to my life, and I now realize that the club helps me just as much as it helps my students.

~Ivana Premasinghe