Note: an earlier version of this article referenced the program at Waukee Middle School. This new version reflects the program was implemented at Prairieview School.

At the beginning of the 2021-22 school year, the Waukee Community Schools Foundation committed to supporting and funding the Waukee Community School District in three primary areas: innovation, wellness, and sense of belonging. Endow Urbandale invested in this commitment with a $6,000 grant to fund mental health services and leadership efforts in the Urbandale neighborhood elementary schools and Prairieview School (previous article here.)

At Prairieview School, the funds were used to begin Mercer’s Leadership Groups, a social skills and leadership program. Keith Mercer operates the nonprofit Mercer’s Elite, which aims to serve communities and underprivileged youth. His programs focus on the importance of character, resilience, leadership, and self-motivation.

At Prairieview, four student groups, totaling 45 students, gathered over the course of the spring semester during their lunch hours. Students were selected by teachers and employees within Prairieview for their leadership potential, while frequently exhibiting behaviors counteractive to their potential. The goal of the program was to encourage underperforming students (academically and/or socially) to realize their capacity for leadership and to gain a stronger sense of confidence and purpose for themselves and within the school setting. Students were able to identify their individual talents and set meaningful goals.

The program resulted in some very positive trends:

  • Students who participated increased their school attendance by 62% compared to their first semester attendance.
  • 38 students in the program had documented behaviors during their first semester. At the conclusion of second semester, 11 students (30%) saw a decrease in behavior referrals.
  • 20 students in the program had at least one suspension during the first semester. By the end of second semester, nearly half of them (9) had decreased their number of suspensions.
  • One student had five suspensions in the first semester and only one suspension in the second semester while participating in the leadership program. This student also went from 32 documented behavior issues in the first semester to 10 in the second. This student also increased attendance significantly. After missing 52 days in the first semester, this student only missed 9 days during the duration of this program in the second semester.

Prairieview teachers noticed the positive changes in students participating in Mercer’s Leadership Group. One teacher shared the following: “My particular student has grown tremendously with his confidence, motivation, and attitude towards school and life. My student is now willing to learn and grow, which is huge for his special education needs. He even met two of this goals this semester.”

Students also recognized the positive changes in themselves after participating in the program. When asked what they’ve learned, they responded:

  • Never give up on yourself”
  • “To believe in yourself and put your thoughts and dreams into action”
  • “How to control myself, that I need to control myself”
  • “To believe in myself”
  • “To have pride in my name”
  • “I learned that you have to not care about what other people think. Also, you got to make sure you do the right things and have motivation to get to where you want to be in life.”
  • “I learned how to think outside the box. I learned how to step away from trouble. I learned everyone has talent.”
  • “How you must use your teachers to get what you desire

The Waukee Community Schools Foundation wishes to thank Endow Urbandale, Keith Mercer, and Prairieview teachers and employees for creating such a positive experience for students.

Note: To learn more about Keith Mercer and Mercer Elite Group, visit his website: