“This was fantastic. It exceeded my expectations,” were the words of Dr. Kevin Baxter, Superintendent of Elementary Schools, Archdiocese of Los Angeles, at the close of our TACSC Archdiocese of Los Angeles Student Leadership Day Wednesday, January 30. “Let’s start talking about next year,” were words spoken by the Chancellor of Education for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Sr. Mary Elizabeth Galt.
This one day event was brimming with energy and excitement from:
- Over 400 middle school students from 100 schools (including 50 walkup registrations);
- 120 Core Leadership Team (CLT) Members (high school student presenters from Notre Dame Academy, Loyola, Bishop Conaty/Our Lady of Loretto, St. Matthias, Serra, Holy Family, and Bishop Montgomery);
- Over 25 veteran TACSC staff members and
- 125 principals, teachers, and chaperones
The event was the idea of Archbishop Jose Gomez who wanted to sponsor an event during Catholic Schools Week that would teach and empower students in their leadership journey. Archbishop Gomez started our day with a welcome and greeting to the students, “Today you are here because you are leaders in your school, and one day you will be leaders in our church and in our society.”
Veteran TACSC staffers, Jennifer Mercado and Sydney Strabala, were instrumental in the tremendous coordination and planning in the months before January 30. Our Core Leadership Team (CLT) of over 120 high school students from seven Los Angeles area high schools served as facilitators for the event. The CLT students, all new to TACSC, attended four CLT meetings between October and January. Each of the CLT training sessions were organized and led by Jennifer and Sydney with the help of 25 TACSC staff members and provided an opportunity for the CLT to develop their workshop presentation skills and learn the content for the four educational modules that were presented.
The January 30 event provided middle school students with several interactive and dynamic leadership learning sessions. Students described their experiences as “eye opening, fun, new, thoughtful, exciting, life changing.”
- Leadership Journey – What Kind of Leader Do You Want to Be? Students first discussed leadership traits found in peer leaders in the community. Next a personal self-assessment helped each participant identify leadership strengths he or she already possessed and discussed ways to develop and enhance desired traits.
- Servant Leadership – students learned servant leadership practices and how to include these practices in his or her daily leadership life and spiritual life. As a Christian steward, one must receive God’s gifts gratefully, nurture them responsibly, share them lovingly in justice with others and return them to the Lord with more than one started with.
- Leadership Challenge – teams of students tackled 11 fun and engaging Challenge games where they used communication, small group collaboration and problem solving to reinforce leadership learning (and win prizes).
- Team Problem Solving – teams of students used strategy, decision making and creative problem solving skills to create a visual presentation of what leadership means.
TACSC also provided an adult program for the 125 teachers, principals, and chaperones in attendance. Board Member Lilliam Paetzold and teacher Ashley Hobbs (both from Notre Dame Academy Elementary School in Los Angeles) presented an informative session on how to design a leadership curriculum for middle school students. Tom Zeko, Community Service Director at Loyola High School, led a session on servant leadership and spoke in depth about the three week immersion service project for Loyola High School seniors. Tom was also instrumental in gathering many of the Community ChangeMaker posters that adorned the walls and tables of the 2nd Floor Foyer of the Cathedral. Each poster described a middle or high school student’s community service / social justice project that made a difference in the lives of those in his or her community. These posters will be used by TACSC going forward to reinforce servant leadership and the connection between community service and leadership.
The Student Leadership Day ended with an inspirational Liturgy designed and coordinated by veteran TACSCer Stephanie Criona-Duda and her team of students from Our Lady of Guadalupe School in Hermosa Beach. Musical Director Bobbi Lynn Lambert brought the Liturgy to life with a full choir and band. The presider, Auxiliary Bishop Edward Clark, reiterated to the middle school students, “that God planned special gifts to build up the church, and they are different from one person to the other. But the more important leadership is the one that leads others to God. Be the good soil so you can be a good leader.”
TACSC is so proud of our partnership with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in delivering such a successful day of leadership learning. In his closing comments Kevin Baxter recognized and emphasized one of our most important missions when he said “This was an event designed by young people, coordinated by young people, and led by young people. That is so important to me. Peer-to-peer leadership training inspires and motivates our elementary school students to want to be leaders, to want be leaders in Catholic high schools and beyond.”
We owe much gratitude to the The Ahmanson Foundation for their sponsorship and underwriting of the event for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. And many thanks to our polo shirt sponsor IRS Demo and our printer sponsor ARC Printing.
TACSC looks forward to working with other Dioceses across the country to produce events such as this. It was a home run in Los Angeles for sure!