SUMMERVILLE -- Ten-year-old Tierra Gadsden knows school work has to come before everything else.

"Put first things first," the Summerville Elementary School fifth-grader said, citing one of the "Seven Habits of Happy Kids."

"If you do that, you'll get more done," she said.

Summerville Elementary has launched a school-wide program called "The Leader in Me," which is based on the habits presented in Stephen R. Covey's popular book, "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People." That book presented a principle-centered approach for solving problems.

Covey's son, Sean, who is trying to take the message to children, visited the school Thursday.

Covey said the national school leadership model, which began about 18 months ago, is being conducted in about 300 schools. His goal is to bring it to 10,000 schools.

"It's transformational," he said. "It teaches skills that are needed now more than ever."

Principal Lori Dibble said the leadership program "isn't necessarily trying to make them the next CEO." But, she said, "they will be children who are used to setting goals for themselves."

Graham McCurry, 11, one of the students who took Covey on a tour of the school, said, "The habits are easy to get." If students develop them, "they learn better and don't disturb anybody else's learning," he said.

Dibble said there's a tremendous amount of community and school support for the program, including an endorsement from the Greater Summerville/Dorchester County Chamber of Commerce. The school raised $30,000 in private donations to train teachers to implement the program, she said.

Reach Diane Knich at 937-5491 or