Robert King, Vilseck High School
VILSECK, Germany | May 29, 2013
Faculty members hand-picked 39 students, including six middle school children, to discover their executive potential at Vilseck High School's "Leadership Day."Six veteran students – Malia Carson, Christy Chanin, Andrew Zdeb, Justin Ernst, Meraleigh Randle, and Phillip Ramirez – facilitated the conference.They challenged the attendees to reflect on the qualities of good leaders and find those within themselves.
First, the student facilitators randomly assigned every participant to a team, where they would receive the day's challenges.Their first task was to create a team name.It was a simple instruction, but the students quickly encountered the first hurdles of leadership – learning to listen and cooperate.After completing the team name activity, the leader trainees listened to a presentation from junior Phillip Ramirez.He emphasized that positions of authority do not automatically equal positions of leadership."Leaders require followers," stressed Ramirez, "and [they] should work for their followers."
The morning continued with teambuilding activities interspersed with presentations from the student facilitators.Senior Christy Chanin, who presented a lecture on time management, said the activities helped the students delve into their budding talents:"They were able to explore the qualities of leadership and collaboratively discover the characteristics that shape the potential leaders they are becoming."
Some of the other presentation topics were motivation, communication, and problem solving, and each had a related endeavor.Many of the students particularly enjoyed the problem solving activity, the marshmallow challenge.The leaders had to use spaghetti, some string, and tape to build a structural support for one marshmallow.The team with the highest, most stable marshmallow construction emerged as the winner.Like many of his fellow participants, Maxim Granville loved the activity because it was fun, but also because, as he stated, "It was challenging."
One of the other highlights of Leadership Day was the VIP luncheon.Vilseck High School is attached to USAG Grafenwoehr, and the top three leaders of the garrison – Colonel James Saenz, Deputy Kathy Aydt, and Command Sergeant Major William Berrios-Rodriguez– sat down with the participants for a good meal, served by VHS teacher Jane Varalli and her Culinary Arts class.The students were appreciative for the unique face-time they received, and they took away some new wisdom from experienced managers.
The Leadership Day, while training future student leaders, also served to get more students involved in life at Vilseck High.Co-coordinator Rick Ritter, a Social Studies teacher at VHS, said, "It's a way of getting kids thinking ahead about next year and stepping up to lead our various organizations, while improving our school."Jocelyn Smith, an eighth-grader from nearby Netzaberg Middle School and one of the day's youngest participants, added, "Today was an excellent opportunity to meet my future peers and learn some of the most vital traits to becoming a leader at VHS."
The conference attendees capped their day by writing letters to the people they had just gotten to know a little better – themselves.In the letters, they formed their goals for next year and reflected on the newfound leadership skills they will use to accomplish them.