Case Study

Legacy Early College: Unlocking Potential with CliftonStrengths


Legacy Early College is a Title 1 school serving 4k-12k students in “The Legacy Zone” of West Greenville, SC. This region is comprised of “three of Greenville County’s most historically under-served census tracts — neighborhoods of multi-generational poverty, persistent underemployment, and pockets of crime.” Around the time Legacy Early College began in 2009, this zone had the highest dropout rates in in the county, with one out of every two students failing to graduate.

Legacy was established with the goal of helping these underserved scholars not only graduate high school, but also become, in most cases, first generation college graduates. This vision is built upon a three-pillar model of academic rigor, daily physical education, and superior nutrition — supporting the students’ thriving in mind and body. Legacy Early College has three campuses, which house its four schools: the 4k center, elementary school, middle school, and high school.

LaCheryl Coleman


Because LEC serves over 1,700 students throughout the entirety of their pre-college academic career, a high degree of coordination is required among faculty and administrators. Leaders of each of the four schools collaborate to ensure students’ readiness to transition from one school to the next. Coordination is also required to provide consistency and the streamlining of information and event planning between the three campuses, particularly for the benefit of families who have children in multiple schools.

When LaCheryl Coleman assumed leadership of Legacy’s high school in 2019, LEC was 3 points away from being an “F-rated” school. As she looked to the future she wanted to create, she knew some strategic work was necessary, particularly in the area of culture.

Knowing about Traci’s work with teams, especially around culture, LaCheryl called Traci and expressed her desire to invest in cultural repair and in understanding her faculty better. Together, Traci and LaCheryl decided that CliftonStrengths might be a good addition to address the needs of the LEC team.


Traci began by using CliftonStrengths to assess the faculty and identify the strengths of each member. She then led several engaging sessions to help the faculty name and claim their strengths in the first year of work. Traci left behind resources like Team Grids so the administration could begin to understand their teachers better and leverage that understanding to communicate more effectively. 

In Traci’s second year working with Legacy Early College, she unlocked the Full 34 of each person’s CliftonStrengths results. The faculty and staff worked on Strengths, Weaknesses and Blind Spots on an individual level. This work really transformed the staff to be more self-aware and self-regulated. Traci left behind additional worksheets so that LaCheryl and her team could continue their language development. 

In Traci’s third year, she focused on teaching the staff of Legacy to AIM their strengths at starting projects, finishing projects, influencing the students, and building relationships. Most consultants see self-awareness as the ultimate journey and work of CliftonStrengths, but the real gold is in the leveraging of these individual talents.

From Traci’s CliftonStrengths work, LaCheryl learned that one Assistant Principal had talents in strategic thinking and as a result was able to turn to them when she needed a big-picture thinker as a thought partner.

Another Assistant Principal had learner in their top strengths and began to utilize those talents for LEC by reading up on relevant research and reviewing school policies. LaCheryl could now delegate to her team from a place of knowledge, leveraging everyone’s skills to fill gaps and promote the growth of the team.

In Traci’s fourth year of working with LEC, she returned this time to work with both the high school and the middle school teams. The high school had experienced such positive results that LEC wanted a middle school session. The following year, LEC brough Traci back to work with the high school, middle school, and elementary school, as well as to offer a new teacher training with their staff. These beginning-of-the-year sessions were great team builders that strengthened the existing team and accelerated the creation of relational equity with new teachers.

This school year, in addition to the opening sessions, Traci has been invited to work in a focused way with one LEC campus. She’s come onsite about every quarter to provide dedicated culture coaching and to bring a new level of integration of the team’s knowledge previously gleaned from CliftonStrengths.

This year will be the sixth year Traci will work with the LEC teams. LaCheryl commented on Traci’s gift for making the content fresh and relevant for her staff year after year. The first time through CliftonStrengths, the emphasis was more individual; learning about self and identifying others similar to you to align with. The next time around was geared toward cultivating deeper understanding of the entire team and how to leverage their respective strengths. The entire team was also upskilled in interpersonal applications of the strengths-based insights, such as how to prepare for conversation with specific team members based on how they take in information.


When asked about measurable impact, LaCheryl highlighted that the work with Traci was a key factor in bringing LEC’s grade from just 3-points from an “F” five years ago to 1-point shy of an “A” this year. She points to Traci’s use of CliftonStrengths as providing a much-needed cultural jumpstart, which was a critical pre-requisite to academic improvement.

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast,” as Peter Drucker, an influential management consultant and author, famously said. Being progressively immersed in CliftonStrengths has allowed the LEC staff to establish a common language, shift their biases in light of new understanding of their colleagues’ strengths, and co-create healthier interactions and thereby a healthier culture.

When asked if she would consider using anyone else for CliftonStrengths coaching in the future, LaCheryl said she had done so before working with Traci but would never go back. She pointed to the energy that Traci brings as being so important.

CliftonStrengths is a great program, but who’s facilitating it is super important to the success of your organization. Traci is a people person. Regardless of the environment you put her in, she’s going to have good rapport with everyone in the room. Her energy is amazing; her customer service and follow through are on point. You can’t go wrong with Traci Newkirk.

The cultural revitalization LEC has experienced has provided an environment rich for making the necessary practical and strategic shifts necessary year over year, bringing their rating from nearly an “F” to nearly an “A.”

The overall transformation has been so profound that LaCheryl is now looked to as a thought leader and advisor among regional school administrators looking to improve their cultures.