Bethesda Academy in Savannah Launches New Leadership Development Initiative for Middle and High School Students
Character-building Program at Historic All-Boys Private School in Savannah, Ga., to Serve as a Framework for Other Schools Across the Country

(SAVANNAH, Ga.) Reflective of the Bethesda Academy mission to teach and guide young men with a love of God, a love of learning, and a strong work ethic, the historic all-boys private school in Savannah, Ga., recently announced the launch of the new Leadership Development Initiative (LDI) under the direction of recently-hired Director of Leadership Colonel (U.S. Army Retired) Ken Vaughn. Colonel Vaughn brings with him extensive experience in working with adolescent boys and most recently served as Chief Operating Officer at the Paul Anderson Youth Home in Vidalia, Ga. As part of the Bethesda Academy Strategic Plan “Lead the Way,” President Mike Hughes, Colonel Ken Vaughn, and the Board of Governors are working together to transform Bethesda into an innovative Leadership Academy to develop character and leadership skills in boys in grades 6-12.

This performance-oriented program was created with guidance from the executive team and interns of the Jepson School of Leadership Studies at the University of Richmond. Its goal is to build character and develop strong leadership skills in young people.

“We’re thrilled to have established a comprehensive Christian leadership program that we can deliver directly to young men in grades 6-12 without leaving campus,” Col. Vaughn said. “We’re combining some of the strongest character-building techniques used at the most respected leadership schools around the country with spiritual growth practices to provide a truly unique experience for our students.”

The curriculum of the LDI program is structured in a three-part framework:

  1. Win the Day: Participating students begin each day with a small homeroom group for their cohort. They begin with a prayer, discuss what they are grateful for, recite the Blazer Promise, and ensure their appearance meets the standard of excellence. The boys also have the option to enjoy breakfast with their mentors.
  2. Seminar: Each Tuesday, participating students join in a group discussion about one specific element of Bethesda Academy’s Core Values (Love of God, Love of Learning and Strong Work Ethic) or Code of Conduct (Honor, Respect and Consideration of Others).
  3. 36 Heroes: Each week, participating students examine a servant leadership case study that focuses on a well-known public figure who is a strong role model. The group discusses what challenges that individual overcame to get where they are now and which qualities in that person the students find admirable.

Prior to graduation, seniors are required to complete a capstone project for the program. Upon completion, students receive a class credit for the year for leadership, as well as an endorsement on their degree or transcript. Also, an anonymous donor has offered a $1,000 scholarship to students who receive specific award-winning accolades during the program.

The three segments of the LDI program (Win the Day, Seminar and 36 Heroes) support the Academy-wide character and leadership mission by:

  • Advancing understanding and implementation of effective character and leadership development practices for students, faculty and staff.
  • Inspiring students to embrace Bethesda Academy’s core values as the foundation of their lifelong journey to becoming strong men of character.
  • Providing experiences, tools and collaborative, inspirational settings to foster character and leadership development for students and Bethesda Academy faculty and staff.

“This is the first leadership development program in the country with this structured framework that allows the curriculum to be measurable and replicable,” explained Col. Vaughn. “We believe as this program progresses, and results become evident, other middle and high schools across the country will adopt this model.”

For the inaugural year, Bethesda Academy’s LDI is using a cohort model that pairs two groups of six boys with two adult mentors each. The first group of participants was selected in a draft-style assembly in front of the entire student body, followed by a special induction ceremony at the campus chapel.

While adult mentors currently deliver the curriculum for this cohort, Col. Vaughn anticipates that upperclassmen will assume these responsibilities for the next cohort at the beginning of the next school year, putting their newly-acquired leadership skills into action.

Bethesda provides a truly unique opportunity to transform boys into young men of high character who will develop a love of God, a love of learning, a strong work ethic and leadership skills to serve their community,” said Bethesda Academy President Michael Hughes. “All of our students attend Chapel every day, but this LDI program provides an additional way to connect our young men with their faith and inspire a call to servant leadership. We’re excited to see where this leads.”

Founded in 1740, Bethesda Academy is the oldest child-care institution in the United States. Now it is a private day school for young men in grades six through twelve and is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. The 650-acre campus features a variety of athletic teams, a wildlife management and cattle program and a college preparatory curriculum. Through its “Lead The Way” initiative, students have access to exclusive integrated learning and leadership opportunities. For more information, visit or call 912.644.4376.

Cynthia Cradduck
Cecilia Russo Marketing, LLC