The 2013-2014 school year was full of light bulb moments.

It started out with this thought:  What if we gave young students the chance to shine as leaders?  What if we spent as much time creating opportunities for them to practice their leadership skills as we did talking to them about bullying?  What if we got a little creative? What if we could inspire the adults and the kids without it being a hassle or taking away from class time?  What if we made it inexpensive?  Simple?  Flexible? And dare I say, what if it was fun?

The answer was One Can Count, based on Kathryn Otoshi’s award-winning book, One, and thanks to Senator Lanza, we were able to answer some of those burning questions.

It is the first time that all 30 elementary schools in Senator Lanza’s Staten Island district received the tools they needed to start their own One Can Count initiative.  It became a chain of leadership.  From the free workshop in September to the last day in June, schools made One Can Count their own.  Parent coordinators, teachers, principals and counselors embraced the concept that leadership is the anti-bully.

Here’s the simple theory:  Kids need attention.  They’ll get it any way they can.  So, if you give them the chance to be their best self, they most often rise to the occasion.  The more leaders you have in a classroom, the better the balance.

Although it’s a children’s book, every age, including grown ups are inspired by the power that each of us has to stand up and be the One that steps in.

One Can Count is designed to be a stand alone initiative or work with existing programs in the school to help children value the concept of respect.  Bullying is a tangled ball and just like any messy and complicated issue, it often requires many small solutions.

With that being said, I was amazed at what schools accomplished this year.  They took this tool and ran with it.  They had mentoring programs, art and writing projects, assemblies, leadership counsels, performances, and much more.  They created daily reminders of what it’s like to be a One.

The year started out with questions but it ended with an answer:

Words of a 5th Grade Leader presenting chain of leadership to Senator Lanza:

Just like the chain, we are connected to one another in our commitment to grow into young leaders.  We are a community of learners who recognize that leadership is not just a position, but a process. — Piumi

Part of that process:

Books and Materials  

Multiple copies of One and the companion book, Zero, were delivered to each of the 30 schools in early September.


With the generous support of St. John’s University, schools came together to hear from experts, including author Kathryn Otoshi and to discuss ideas in which schools could easily incorporate the concepts of leadership.

Free Materials

Materials to help get the tangled ball rolling are free and downloadable here.

Creating the Concept of a Team

Schools had the option of ordering special personalized One Can Count t-shirts for students or teachers.

We’re just getting started.  Next year our goal is to have every student feel like a leader. — Parent Coordinator, P.S. 80

Sometimes it just takes One.

Thank you Senator Lanza, St. John’s University, Kathryn Otoshi, and especially schools, for delivering hundreds of light bulb moments for me and hopefully Staten Island elementary school students.  Looking forward to 2014-2015.