Early one recent morning, a roomful of people in Hampstead sat quietly, waiting for the president to speak.

Early one recent morning, a roomful of people in Hampstead sat quietly, waiting for the president to speak.

They kept their eyes on the spot where the president would stand: a small desk that held a list of the day’s talking points and a big bell. As soon as the president rang that bell, the people knew, the day would get started.

As the clock clicked over, the president strode to the front of the room, her shiny hair bouncing beneath a brightly colored headband and her ruffled skirt swishing. She sat down at the desk, glanced at her list and rang the bell.

"I now call the meeting to order," said Roxey Jordan, president – of a first- and second-grade classroom at North Topsail Elementary School.

Roxey, along with 21 other students at North Topsail Elementary, is part of the school’s newly formed leadership academy. The class looks like a traditional first- and second-grade combination class, but with a few differences. Different students are elected president, vice president and secretary each week, and that trio is responsible for guiding the class throughout the week. They take roll, talk about the day’s weather, recap what happened the day before – both good and bad – and ask how their classmates are being leaders.

The leadership class started at North Topsail Elementary this fall as a creative solution to overcrowded first and second grades, Assistant Principal Dawn McKernan said. Students who teachers felt were natural leaders were chosen for the class, which is taught by Bridget Wortman and MeiMei Garrison.

During their daily morning meetings, the students go over what it means to have these characteristics. To student Ethny Case, being a leader means pitching in to clean up the classroom. For James Manning, it’s a fellow classmate sharing his glue stick during art. To Kirsten Warrick, it’s relating to people – like remembering how you felt when your fish died to console a friend who’s sad, she said.

On the academic side, Wortman and Garrison are seeing their students’ abilities shoot up. The same thing is happening on the social side, with students speaking up willingly and working well with each other.

From the elementary school perspective, being in the leadership class is just fun. As Cory Mosser put it, being elected president is a high honor – it’s "like you’re the boss of everybody."