Lighthouse Award confetti

The confetti rained down at Herbert Carter Global Community Magnet Monday morning, as students and staff learned that their school has become only the third school in the state to earn the coveted Lighthouse Certification from the Franklin Covey company.

The Lighthouse Certification is used as a standard of achievement for schools like HCGC that are utilizing the “Leader in Me” curriculum. HCGC has been working for two years to earn the designation. HCGC Principal Shelbi Cole learned the school earned the award last week, but Monday’s announcement was a surprise to almost everybody else.

“I’m not usually a crier, but when they called me and told me last week, it made me cry,” Cole said. “It’s so surreal. It’s wonderful that little old Marion, Arkansas, has a school with such a prestigious award. Our kids have put in the time to make this a reality. They’re the ones who did this. They’re the ones who did the work.”

HCGC first became a Leader in Me school in 2016. The program is designed to build leadership and life skills in students, create a high-trust school culture, and lay the foundation for sustained academic achievement. The curriculum is focused on the idea that every student has the potential to be a leader and that schools can guide students to grow, not only academically, but socially as well.

At HCGC, the Leader in Me program is built around seven key “habits” that are infused into the school’s daily routine. The school uses the habits to encourage students to develop leadership skills and ultimately lead their own learning. The seven habits include:

  • Be proactive: You are in charge of you
  • Begin with the end in mind: Know what you want before you do it
  • Put first things first: Do the important things first
  • Think win-win: Find ways everyone can win
  • Seek first to understand, then to be understood: Listen first, then talk
  • Synergize: Work together to do better
  • Sharpen the saw: Take care of yourself

About two years ago, Cole said the school was invited to apply to become Lighthouse School. This kicked off a two-year preparation process that culminated in a team of evaluators visiting the school earlier this spring to visit with students, staff, and parents. Evaluators talked to students about the leadership skills they were learning to determine if the school was meeting the rigid standards required for the award. Cole said very few schools earn the Lighthouse Certification on their first try, but HCGC accomplished it.

“This means we are a model school,” Cole said. “It means educators from across the country will come to our school to learn how we implement the Leader in Me program. It’s a lot of work, but it’s meaningful work that makes our school better. It enhances our academics, and it enhances our student behavior. The Leader in Me principles frame every conversation we have with our students.”

HCGC will keep its Lighthouse Certification for two years. Cole said after two years, the school will need to re-apply, showing how the school has grown its Leader in Me program.

But for Monday, it was a day of celebration. Following a confetti-filled school assembly, students were treated to snow cones, courtesy of the school’s Global Parents Association.

“I’m just so incredibly proud of our students, our amazing staff, and our wonderful parents who helped make this day come to fruition,” Cole said. “It’s such an exciting moment for our school.”

The Marion School District is an innovative and growing district committed to helping every student find their unique path to success in school and in life. With more than 150 years of experience serving families in Crittenden County, the district offers a high school, a junior high, and three award-winning magnet schools. For enrollment information, including information on school choice, visit or call 870-739-5100.