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Loveworks Leadership

Developing Middle School Leaders of Competence & Character

When the Loveworks Leadership program first opened its doors in 2011, it was created to fill an important need in the Norman community. Loveworks was designed to present a program geared specifically for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students, offered at no cost to participants, and designed to develop leadership, social, and life skills, strengthen academic performance, and lower the level of risk-taking behaviors in this crucial age group.

“Despite the proven positive benefits associated with engagement in an after-school activity, many families just don’t have the time and financial resources they require,” explains Carolyn Spitler, Loveworks associate director.

“When a student attends Loveworks Leadership, we’re capturing the after-school hours of 4-6 p.m. Many middle school students spend this time glued to a screen where unknown content can surface and influence students positively or negatively. Instead, Loveworks enables every student to harness this time by allowing them to lead, learn life skills and improve their character.”

Lovework’s mission is to develop middle school students into leaders of competence and character, to help them live purposeful and productive lives. This innovative after-school program focuses on building students’ leadership abilities, strengthening life skills and encouraging positive character development. Loveworks works directly with Norman Public Schools to provide transportation after school, and it works with community partners to also provide all participants with a nutritious snack and meals.

“Each element of the program is intentionally designed to cultivate our students’ potential,” Carolyn says. 

Loveworks participants engage in activities designed to bolster teamwork and decision-making skills, grow problem-solving capabilities, and hone the ability to form effective habits. Throughout the year, students engage in project-based learning designed to develop confidence and public speaking skills. Each student is also encouraged to develop a personal project each semester, which allows them to discover hobbies and explore potential career paths.

“Through these passion projects, students gain a better understanding of their interests and skills, which will bring clarity to their future path before they enter the workforce or continue post-high school education,” Carolyn adds. “Past students have explored projects focused on culinary arts, woodworking, animation, robotics, aviation and more.”

Loveworks students are introduced to entrepreneurship through a “micro startup” opportunity that helps them learn about product development, budgeting, marketing, pitching and sales. The experience ends in a “shark tank” style competition and a student sales fair. In addition, participants can take part in community service projects, which empower students to make an impact in their local community.  

“Our groups study the mission of other local charities and organize a way to support them,” she explains. “They fundraise and serve through a variety of projects like bake sales, benefit nights, auctions and in-kind donations for food banks and shelters. Students build confidence and learn how to use their voice, an important leadership skill when advocating for a cause.”

When students leave Loveworks, staff hope that they will use the skills they learned in the program to become future leaders in the communities where they live and work. Having now served middle school students for more than a decade, Carolyn says that one of the most rewarding aspects of the program is seeing former participants give back directly to the program. 

“Recently, one of our alumni graduated from OU, secured her first career-building job and has been helping with Loveworks’ grant writing,” she explains.

“We also had a former student who discovered her dream of being a CEO when she was with us in seventh grade. Last semester, as the CEO of her integrated business core company in OU’s College of Business, she was able to lead a team that donated over 500 hours of service to Loveworks. It was truly a full-circle moment!”

Loveworks enrolls interested students year-round, and middle school students can apply on the organization’s website. Donations in support of the program can also be made online, and community members are encouraged to share their passion and skills as program volunteers.  

“We are grateful for the opportunity to offer high-quality, intentional programming in a safe place, especially for middle school students, who often experience their own specific set of challenges,” Carolyn concludes. “We hope students are awakened to their potential here, are exposed to needs in the community and have a light bulb moment for how they can make a difference.”

For more information, visit or or on Instagram at @loveworksleadership.

“Each element of the program is intentionally designed to cultivate our students’ potential."

“We hope students are awakened to their potential here, are exposed to needs in the community and have a light bulb moment for how they can make a difference.”