Not far from the Coachella Valley, an online charter school uses a unique method to teach its students leadership skills.
Juan Bautista de Anza Online Charter school offers grades three through twelve and serves Riverside, San Diego, Imperial and Orange counties. The school also offers a special Horse Wisdom class, which helps students build leadership skills. In addition, it gives the online student body the opportunity to meet off the web, and in the barn.
Dr. Sandra Thorpe is the school founder and director. She started teaching Horse Wisdom class to students six years ago. According to Thorpe, the unique class helps students both in the classroom and in social situations.
"I can teach leadership without being judgmental because the horses are not judgmental," said Thorpe.
When students first arrive at Horse Wisdom class, they focus on earning the trust of their horses by learning to groom them. This helps each individual student start to build a special relationship with one of the horses -- much like they would with a person.
"They look forward to building the relationship with their favorite horse," said Thorpe. "Almost all of them have a favorite horse after the first or second time."
After the students get to know the horses, they gear up for the challenge of leading their horse through a maze.
"And if they like the kid and if they feel the kids a good leader, they will do anything for them," said Thorpe.
At the end of each Horse Wisdom class, older students decide which first time students should be awarded a "golden horseshoe" for outstanding work.
Thorpe wishes all students had the opportunity to build leadership skills like hers do. For more information, click here to visit the school's website.