BETHLEHEM, Pa. -

Becoming an effective leader has long been a goal in the working world, and now it's becoming the standard in the school yard.

Nearly a dozen local schools are participating in a program that aims to transform education for the better.

Spring Garden second grader John Anthony is a classroom greeter.

"Hi," he said. Welcome to Mrs. Yoder's classroom."

His school is part of the "Leader in Me Program."

"We work very hard on our academics but want to make sure we are growing future leaders and not just focused on one area," said Eric Smith, the principal.

Smith said the seven-step elementary school-based program focuses on character development, responsibility and meeting goals. Currently, 10 area elementary schools are leadership schools. Spring Garden is one of six in the Bethlehem Area School District. 

Officials said grades for students like Messiah Johnson have increased dramatically because of the Leader in Me program.

"I used to be very forgetful but then I started to remember to bring my homework and I have less checks in my planner," he said.

Dozens of local teachers, administrators and students traveled to the PBS studios in Bethlehem on Wednesday for a symposium with Sean Covey. "The Leader in Me" is based on Covey's father Stephen's "7 Habits of Highly Effective People."

"This is the missing piece of the puzzle of how we can get students engaged and motivated," Benita Draper said.

Lincoln Elementary was the first to implement the program in the Lehigh Valley four years ago.

"One of the major differences with students is with self esteem and self confidence, it's blossomed," she said.

"From the moment of living Leader in Me you can't stop. Your life is forever changed for the better," 5th grader Marino Bubba told the audience.

Even on a miscue...

"I'm sorry I can't talk," student Skylar Moore said while addressing the crowd.

The self confidence was evident in the students who addressed the crowd.

"Trust me, I'm still working on it," she laughed.

Being able to a laugh at yourself is a true trait of a leader.