Seventy student council members from Cove Creek School, Green Valley School, Hardin Park School, Parkway School and Watauga High School completed the first-ever Watauga County Schools Student Council Leadership Academy August 8-9 at Watauga High School.
The academy featured motivational speaker and career coach Kent Julian, panel discussions about “what leadership means to me” with local educational leaders, and a series of sessions each day in which students broke into groups to learn and apply leadership principles.
The panel on the first day included Superintendent Dr. Scott Elliott, Chief Academic Officer Tamara Stamey, Board of Education Chair Ron Henries, and former ASU Vice Chancellor for Student Development Cindy Wallace. The second day panel featured Assistant Superintendent and Human Resources Director Dr. Stephen Martin, Valle Crucis Principal Preston Clarke, Watauga County Commissioner John Welch, and Zach Walker, a drama teacher at WHS. While each panel member brought their personal experience and judgment to bear in defining leadership, the themes of integrity, a commitment to serve, and the willingness to learn, listen, and grow were emphasized by most speakers. Clarke commented that “if you’re willing to serve, you can be a leader,” and Walker reminded students that “integrity means doing the right thing even when no one is watching.”
Julian’s remarks to students centered on the idea that “direction determines destiny” and that students need to be stepping in the right direction every day. “What you believe is evidenced by the steps you take, by how you live, not in words.” While it’s valuable for leaders to be able to talk the talk, “successful leaders truly walk the walk.”
Another key point in Julian’s message was the need for leaders to persevere in the face of failure and realize that their destiny is shaped much more by their response to bad events than by the events themselves. “To believe that events = outcomes is an equation for failure…if you own your responses to bad events, you can still turn failure into a positive.” He assured students that while bad things will happen, they are not what determine destiny for leaders. “You’ve got this leadership thing as long as you live by the equation E+R=O – events plus your response to events equals outcome.”
The Student Council Leadership Academy was organized by Heather Martin, a teacher of exceptional children and student council advisor at Parkway School. The list of assisting personnel included Angela Bland of Hardin Park School, Brittany Ball of Green Valley School, Emily Collins of Watauga High School, Lindsey Gough from Cove Creek, and Sandra Ruppert of Green Valley.
The work of school personnel to provide this leadership experience for students was supported by BREMCO, which donated t-shirts for all participants, by Stick Boy Bread Company, which donated bagels and cream cheese, by donations of biscuits from Hardee’s, and by financial contributions from Deal, Moseley, and Smith, LLP and several WHS Student Council parents. In addition to this material support, personnel from BREMCO led a session on college planning and resume preparation and Amanda Cottrell led a session on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, a widely used personality assessment system.
“We are very grateful for the sponsorship these businesses and families provided to this event and for all the support they provide to our students,” said Martin. “We are truly blessed to live in a community that is so committed to helping students grow and succeed. If others would like to financially support the leadership academy and future events of the district Student Council groups, we would welcome contributions sent to the attention of Ly Marze at P.O. Box 1790, Boone 28607.
Martin led the revival of a student council at Parkway School shortly after joining the faculty there two years ago, and took a group of her students to the N.C. Association of Student Councils Summer Workshop held last month in Mars Hill, NC. “Academics are obviously important for student success, but there’s also much more that we can offer students through extracurricular activities like student council. If we want to develop the kind of leaders we need for the future, we have to be intentional and committed about providing opportunities for students to develop and practice leadership skills. Supporting leadership development is a great way to help our students develop their full potential to make a difference in school and throughout their lives.”
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