WEST POINT, N.Y. (Nov. 10, 2011) -- The fifth annual Frances Hesselbein Student 2 Student Leadership Program, in partnership with the Military Child Education Coalition, was held at West Point Oct. 31-Nov. 4. Ten high school student leaders from around the country attended, including one local student, Taylor Endres, from James I. O'Neill High School in Highland Falls.

The students attend the conference for a five-day leadership development program. Students take what they learned back to their high schools to train other volunteer student ambassadors to aid the transition of military children entering a new school. Many military children move at least nine times during their school years with a parent or parents who serve in the military.

Students are chosen to attend the conference through an application process.

"We send out announcements for the program to all participating high schools and any member of the S2S program can apply," retired Col. Paul Callen, MCEC trainer and S2S Program manager, said. "A committee is selected to scrub all of the files of all applicants and then we go through a telephone interview. We look at the students' grades and what extra-curricular activities the students are involved with."

Endres attended a conference on the leadership program and the idea interested her so much that she joined the S2S Program at O'Neill, which began the S2S Program last year. Endres received an invitation to attend from among 70 applicants.

"It's a great way to integrate military students into a new school," Endres said. "We have about 50 student ambassadors at O'Neill High School. A lot of military students arrive in the summer and that's a great time to talk to them about the school and show them popular things to do around town."

Endres said the student ambassadors email surveys to the new students to match their interest with the interests of student ambassadors.

"It's a way to connect to the new kids," she said. "Ambassadors are with the kids for a few weeks, then let them go on and make their own friends and become part of the school community. We do follow up on them from time to time, though.

"I sponsor kids, not necessarily in my same grade," Endres explained. "But if they're younger kids, I may be able to tell them about some of their teachers, because I had classes with them. After attending this conference, I will bring back ideas to O'Neill. It's a good opportunity to raise our S2S to new heights."

At the conference, students work at team building, attend fireside chats to discuss human development, personalities, diversity, intercultural sensitivity and getting involved in exercises designed to gain some insight into such things as differing perceptions.

Students also have fun socializing with cadets by sharing pizza, bowling or learning how to fence. Three cadets--Class of 2014 Cadet Andrea Young, Class of 2013 Cadet Chad Perkins and

Class of 2015 Cadet Justus Eckstrom--spoke to the student leaders about their experiences as student ambassadors in their high schools.

"I think the S2S program helped me gain a different perspective on how different people see a problem and how they deal with it," Perkins said.

The student leaders enjoyed being around cadets because they are close in age and can relate to them on different subjects, like what to expect in college.

"I learned a lot of new things at the conference," Endres said. "I've never been exposed to conferences----it's a real good climate with cerebral workshops and the cadets are fun and make great mentors."