WYOMING, Mich. (WOOD) — At the head of every pack, there’s a lesson to be learned through a leader who lifts and enlightens those they lead. At Wyoming High School, those lessons are taught in their Alpha Wolf 11 Champions of Character. 

“Alpha Wolf is just this, it’s this program that just simply wants people to be better at the end of the day,” Wyoming High School teacher John Doyle said. “It’s a speech of just being kind and compassionate and gracious to people, treating people right, expecting nothing in return.”

Doyle is in charge of organizing the program. He brought an adopted version to the high school six years ago after he watched his middle school son earn the honor at Grandville.

“It’s got to be the most proudest moment of their life. How can it not be,” Doyle said of parents watching their kids get recognized. “Your son or daughter just won an award for just being a great person.”

In a typical year, the students would select four of their classmates from each grade level to become an Alpha Wolf. Wyoming doesn’t have a freshman class in the building, so a total of 12 students are selected: two at the end of the first semester and two at the end of the year.

COVID-19 protocols made them unable to hold the ceremonies last year. But this year, they knew the students needed it and that safely they could hold it. Instead of one gym packed with over 1,000 people, they split it into three separate ceremonies, one for each grade level.

“We’ve been waiting for this for a long time. The last time we celebrated in this gym was in 2019 and it was packed. There were a thousand people here, it was our fifth-year anniversary,” Doyle said, midway through year six.

The principles of the Alpha Wolfs are the same, students who demonstrate kindness, compassion and graciousness every day.

“For a lot of these kids, it’s probably the first time they’d been really recognized for being who they are,” Doyle explained. “It has nothing to do with grades, nothing to do with extracurricular activities, right? You’re not the first chair in the band. You’re not the quarterback. You’re just a person in high school that’s trying to make the place better.”

The ceremony is a buildup of eager anticipation. Teachers or students read narratives about the unknown Alpha Wolf. Written either by students, teachers or a combination of both. They’re described by their peers with words like kindness, strength, leadership and selflessness.

As clues are revealed throughout the narratives, a buzz starts among the student body. They’ve figured out who it is, who they, as a collective class have nominated and voted for as a leader of their pack.

“At the end of the day, everybody wants to be around those people,” Doyle said. “Who doesn’t want to be around somebody that just is full of compassion and full of kindness and grace?”

As the name is read and that student makes their way to the center of the gym with their class and teachers roaring with applause, the real highlight of the day happens — their parents and family surprise them after being hidden out in the hallway. Hugs and tears are common themes as they meet at mid-court. Then finally, a banner, draped in Wyoming purple, is unveiled with the names of the new Alpha Wolfs hung with those who won it in the past.

“It’s embedded in our lessons. It’s in our building. It’s everywhere you go. We hang an 11 on our flagpole for football games,” Doyle said. “We tell them that starts the conversation.”

The conversation around their motto, “On a scale of one to ten, be an 11.” Something Doyle says he sees reflected in the students and staff. Not just posters on the wall or banners in the gym, a way of life that he hopes will find its way to more corners of the community as his Wyoming Wolves students graduate and carry their Alpha Wolf mentality with them, wherever they go.

“When they leave this building, I want them to spread that everywhere they go,” Doyle said. “I want them to spread that common, good to people. I want them to be kind. I want them to be compassionate and gracious.”