(KPIX 5) — Students around the nation and the world are gaining valuable leadership skills because of this week’s Jefferson Award winner.

For nearly 40 years, Dr. June Thompson been the Executive Director of the California Association of Student Councils, or CASC. She has developed a national and international reputation for excellence; her curriculum has helped students teach other students to become the leaders of tomorrow.

“The curriculum is experiential,” said Thompson. “So they learn by doing and they have an opportunity to reflect on how they engaged in the activities, what they learned, what they’ll take into the future.”

Thompson’s program has empowered more than 50,000 American students, 4th through 12th grade, in communication, management and leadership skills.

Students then teach their peers. In one example from a recent Cupertino conference, blindfolded students followed verbal cues to lift a cup of water. The exercise builds trust, teamwork, and communication.

17-year-old Ella Pascua described what she learned from being in charge. “Having a smile on your face and being confident when you’re speaking to others. I feel like they can take it as, ‘She knows what she’s doing. I’ll trust her in this activity,'” Pascua explained.

Thompson says the curriculum doesn’t just work for students in the U.S., it’s producing leaders all over the world.

“Amazingly, we found it works in any culture, in any age group, and it doesn’t matter about language barriers,” she said.

The program has taught young people in countries like Japan, Kazakhstan, Russia, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and China.

At age 20, Jack Hite is the CEO of a company who volunteers teaching students in Beijing the life skills he’s learned from June.

“I look to inspire others to become the best version of themselves,” Hite said.

Pascua and Hite, among many are thankful for the woman they know affectionately as “Doc.”

“Doc’s amazing!” Pascua said.

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