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What could inspire high school students to say, there is really no better feeling than having a good time while helping the community and learning to be a better leader? Or to say, for my last year being in high school, this experience is something I will takewith me for life?
Several years ago, when Michele Fidance, national director of the Jefferson Foundation, contacted Karen Stein, associate professor in the Biden School, to see if there might be some interest in partnering to promote leadership development and volunteerism in Delaware high schools, neither one foresaw that Organizational and Community Leadership (OCL) majors would develop and implement a national model for leadership training as part of Jeffersons Students In Action (SIA) initiative.
In my experience over the last 12 years working with Dr. Stein and her Lead 490 class, her capstone students have brought leadership to life to all of the Delaware Jefferson Awards Students in Action high schoolers and middle school students who attend our Fall Leadership Conference. Each year I have had the pleasure of working hand in hand with the capstone students as they design and facilitate the conference for over 200 Delaware student leaders. Their creative and innovative approach to teaching leadership has proved to be a model that over half of the 13 Jefferson Awards Leadership Communities have adopted, said Fidance.
Each fall , the students in Steins LEAD 490 senior capstone course are faced with a specific challenge: to put into practice all they have learned throughout their past coursework and experiences in the major by creating and implementing a day-long innovative conference for Delaware middle school and high school students that provides specific leadership skill building and enriches their capacity and desire to actively engage in the Jefferson Awards ideals of leadership, community service and volunteerism.
Adding to the challenge was that attending the event, scheduled for a Saturday morning in cold November, would be entirely voluntary. As Dr. Stein explained to her students, leadership is about inspiring a common vision, but you cant stop there. Its one thing to have people say they support something; its quite another leadership challenge, and it takes hard work, to inspire people to actually participate and personally engage in that vision."
So the OCL seniors produced entertaining videos, created a twitter account, and became leadership coaches in classrooms to promote the event and, equally important, make leadership exciting and fun so that these young students would not only sign up to attend, but would really want to attend.
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A student-produced video capturing the excitement of the Students in Action leadership conference.
On November 17, 2018, those challenges were successfully met when over 200 students, some traveling as much as two hours on a bus from southern Delaware, registered for the Students In Action leadership conference. Student attendees reflected on the high energy, enthusiasm, and attention to detail from the capstone students as they learned leadership skills, participated in service, and interacted with peers from across the state.
In addition to learning leadership skills, the conference also emphasized civic engagement and the needand rewardsof giving back to the community. Conference participants responded positively and enthusiastically, donating over 1100 items for the Buckets of Love project that collects and distributes toys, games and crafts for children ages 2-12 who are receiving medical care, residing in homeless shelters or are otherwise facing a difficult situation
The contributions of the LEAD 490 Capstone students do not go unnoticed nor unappreciated. Michele Fidance speaks for the Jefferson Awards when she says, As a proud Blue Hen I am even more proud to work with Dr. Stein and her students and thank them for sharing their time and talents with all of us at the Jefferson Awards About the Jefferson Awards Foundation.
The Jefferson Awards Multiplying Good powers others to have maximum impact on the things they care about most. Through celebration, they inspire action. With programs and partnerships, they drive Americans to change their communities and the world. To learn more about the Jefferson Awards, visit: JeffersonAwards.org or engage with their community on Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and Facebook.