By Bob King and Mary VanDeventer, Vilseck High SchoolJune 6, 2013
VILSECK, Germany -- Nearly 40 students, including six middle school students, gathered in the Vilseck High School Information Center to discover their leadership potential, May 29.
Faculty members hand-picked the students, who represented Vilseck High School's strongest leaders. Six juniors and seniors, including Malia Carson, Christy Chanin, Andrew Zdeb, Justin Ernst, Meraleigh Randle and Phillip Ramirez, facilitated the conference, challenging students to reflect on the qualities of good leaders and find those same qualities within themselves.
First, the student facilitators randomly assigned every participant to a team, where they were given the day's challenges. Their first task was to create a team name. A simple assignment, but 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 team-building activities interspersed with presentations from the student facilitators. Senior Christy Chanin, who presented information on time management, noted the activities helped the students delve into their budding talents.
"(The students) were able to explore the qualities of leadership and collaboratively discover the characteristics that shape the potential leaders they are becoming," Chanin said.
Other presentation topics were motivation, communication and problem solving, and each had a related endeavor. Many of the students particularly enjoyed a problem solving activity called "The Marshmallow Challenge," where emerging leaders had to use spaghetti, string and tape to build a structural support for one marshmallow.
The winners were team was the team with the highest, most stable marshmallow tower construction. Maxim Granville, like many other participants, enjoyed the activity because it was fun, but challenging, as well.
One of the other highlights of Leadership Day was the VIP luncheon. U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwoehr leaders Col. James Saenz, garrison commander; Kathy Aydt, deputy garrison commander; and the garrison's Command Sgt. Maj. William Berrios joined the students for lunch, prepared and served by VHS teacher Jane Varalli's Culinary Arts students. The students appreciated the unique face time, and left with some new wisdom from experienced leaders.
The Leadership Day, while training future student leaders, also served to involve more students in life at Vilseck High.
"It's a way of getting kids thinking ahead about next year and stepping up to lead our various organizations, while improving our school," said co-coordinator Rick Ritter, social studies teacher at VHS.
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."
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.