March 8 marked PUC’s first-ever student-led leadership symposium at Howell Mountain Elementary School in Angwin. Honors students taking an interactive class in leadership theory were given the opportunity to work with fifth- through eighth-grade students in an effort to put the principles they studied into practice. Marlo Waters, associate academic dean & registrar at PUC, guided her honors students in developing a handful of interactive modules which were then modified to best serve the middle school students.
PUC’s student participants devoted a good deal of time over the course of a handful of weeks to developing the best approach in guiding the Howell Mountain students toward a deeper understanding of leadership.
“The ultimate goal of the symposium was to cultivate a sense of leadership and capability in each of the elementary students though the modules the honors class designed,” Waters explains.
The event’s activity stations focused on trust building, ethical decision-making, and building self-confidence. The tagline for the event was, “Leaders build trust. Leaders make good decisions. Leaders have confidence. I am a leader!”
The idea behind this workshop came about as Waters discussed various hands-on projects for the class. The idea of service-oriented leadership resonated strongly with her honors students, and working with the students at Howell Mountain seemed like the perfect opportunity to develop their leadership skills in this area.
“I firmly believe one of the hallmarks of great leadership is the ability to encourage and develop leadership capacity in other individuals,” Waters says. “We have talked about this idea multiple times. The students each have experienced support and encouragement from specific individuals during their journey, and they are eager to pass these gifts along to others.”
Pete Fitzpatrick, the fifth- and sixth-grade teacher at Howell Mountain Elementary School, affirmed the value of this event, especially in its integration of practical learning and enjoyment for the students.
He summarized, “The blindfolded teamwork game was the favorite of quite a few of them. I thought all of the different stations did a good job explaining what the purpose of the activity was, both before the activity, and after. The after-explanation is the most important part as far as elevating the activity to a learning opportunity and not just a fun game.”
Ultimately, the leadership class hoped to not only provide Howell Mountain students with an engaging break from daily work, but also to leave them with a lasting sense of confidence in their personal leadership capabilities.
“The value in this event is in getting the younger kids inspired for higher learning and connecting with people who are younger than most adults they are used to listening to,” Fitzpatrick adds. “It’s important to have the kids think about leadership and working together, but it is also valuable for the PUC students to have a real-world application for their leadership skills.”
In all, the event was a success. Everyone involved was engaged and happy to participate, both as teachers and students. And It was clear all students came away from the experience with a deeper understanding of leadership and its applications in real life.