Affecting change and affecting students: CFALA makes a difference

  • Full of energy, MHS colorguard “whips” the incoming crowd into a frenzy. (photo by Cheyenne Brown)
  • McEachern band serenades the fellow schools at the start of the CFA Leadership Academy kickoff event, welcoming them onto the big campus with a “Big Blue” welcome. (photo by Cheyenne Brown)
  • With his energetic and motivational speech, emcee Billy Boughoy captivates and readies students for the events to come. (photo by Cheyenne Brown)
  • CFALA is sponsored by the social charity “Feeding Children Everywhere,” whose mission is to “empower and mobilize people to assemble healthy meals for hungry children.” (photo by Cheyenne Brown)
  • CFALA and Beta Club members alike united to form student assembly lines to achieve their meal packing goal. (photo by Chrystal Nwaogu)
  • Everyone came together to prepare meals for the homeless, every hand on deck to prepare the meals and surpass the ultimatum of only packing 135,000. (photo by Chrystal Nwaogu)
  • By packing 140,000 meals, the CFALA students contributed to the 20 million meals sent worldwide by the “Feeding the Children Everywhere” company. (photo by Chrystal Nwaogu)
  • Aside from the CFALA students, Beta Club senior members Anna Staebler, Dana Herens, Emily Blair, and Jenna Embrey also played an instrumental part with the philanthropic project. (photo by Chrystal Nwaogu)
  • CFALA is sponspored by the social charity “Feeding Children Everywhere,” whose mission is to “empower and mobilize people to assemble healthy meals for hungry children.” (photo by Cheyenne Brown)
  • After a fun day of life changing advice and community service students and faculty wave goodbye, ready to use their new leadership tools in their own communities. (photo by Chrystal Nwaogu)

by Bianca Theodore, Senior Writer

The air was electric with energy. The room had its own pulse; the stereos boomed and hundreds of conversations buzzed, the seats practically vibrating with the excitement of hundreds of teenagers. Anticipation was heavy, and the room darkened as attention turned to the screen: the 2014 Chick fil A Leader Academy (CFALA) kickoff event had begun.

Two counties, 20 high schools, and over two hundred kids contributed to the eclectic crowd and electric energy in Lovinggood Arena; from freshman to senior, every age, color, gender, and school all had the leadership academy in common that morning. The event itself unfolded into two stages: the first stage re-defined leadership and the second applied those principles through action- those same students proceeding to pack over 140,000 meals for the homeless.

Through their slogan “Change Through Action” Chick fil A (CFA) made change possible and attainable for these students. Speaker David Salyers introduced the concept that change starts with the individual, stating that “nothing has to change but your perspective; and everything can change for you.” Here, making a difference was not a euphemism, but a reality; previous CFALA members each created positive changes in their communities. The “BEE” sisterhood program created by then senior Akilah Blount at West Lake High, the special needs carnival held at Walton; change was possible and it was happening because of their peers.

“We did a charity softball game and ended raising about $4,000 to donate to the Wounded Warriors project. It was really awesome and made me really appreciate the troops a lot more,” Walton senior and CFALA member Cooper Hines said. “Next year we have a special needs charity planned and maybe even a 5k.”

The hundreds of students were then ushered into the gym, handed hairnets and thousands of pounds of food to pack into meals for many of Atlanta’s homeless. The goal was 115,000; CFALA gave them an ultimatum of 135,000, they surpassed it by more than 5,000 meals.

“Most student leadership programs lead to short term motivation but long term frustration. They talk about ideas about how you change the world but don’t give you an opportunity to make a difference. With CFALA the impact comes through action,” co-founder of leadership cultivation company ADDO and CFALA partner Kevin Scott said.

The CFALA program itself had a humble beginning, first cropping up in the southeastern area at University of Georgia, this year launching in more than 20 Metro Atlanta high schools. Since then the annual kickoff event has been held at several schools, this year bringing it home to McEachern campus.

“Last year was McEachern in pilot mode and I’m looking forward to seeing it blossom this year. The goal is to develop leaders for the school and ultimately the nation,” said MHS sponsor and Macland Crossings CFA operator Zach Thomas.

But beyond influencing this school, this state, and even this country is a global vision. So far, CFALA is in 159 high schools nationwide and consists of 4,000 exceptional students. Every student is encouraged to enlarge the club at their own school by recruiting as many people as possible, the number game founded on Kevin Scott’s edict: “every number has a name, and every name has a story.”

“We hope that the impact is beyond this project. It takes 90 days to build a habit, and it’s not just about doing it once at this event, it’s about creating a process of leadership. The hope is that whether someone goes to UGA or Spelman or Harvard- wherever they go- that they will create that process. And that it just multiplies,” CEO of Elevate Live Events and kickoff event emcee Billy Boughoy said.

The kickoff CFALA event lit a flame, but the endgame is to make students the catalyst for change, and start a fire.