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A dose of leadership for students

JANICE KURBJUN
summit daily news
Special to the Daily
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SUMMIT COUNTY – When Summit High School junior Amanda Moore sits in on Summit School District board meetings, she’s learning her voice has power.

“I love giving my student input,” she said. “I know it’s very valuable.”

She applied to serve as student liaison to the school board in her freshman year, and is now in her second year of attending school board meetings every two weeks.

“A lot goes on there that you might not otherwise know,” she said, adding that it means she’s more involved in what happens at school and throughout the district.

Moore is one of 24 students in the Summit High School student leadership class, which is designed to expose students to various community leaders, teach leadership skills and encourage students to take leadership roles. Recently, there’s been a push to get student leaders to engage with the community outside the school system.

Students get into the class by submitting an application prior to their freshman year (though some students apply in high school) and current leadership students interview and select incoming students. The class is largely taught by seniors and has guidance from the sponsor, SHS Leadership sponsor and SHS Dean of Students Brett Tomlinson said. Many students are class officers, but not all of them, he added.

Moore’s presence at school board meetings is one requirement of the class – every student must select a community committee to be a part of, Tomlinson said.

Other committees include the a Breckenridge Police Department round table, the Drug Free Community Coalition, the District Accountability Advisory Committee, and the SHS Scheduling Committee.

“It’s taught me a lot,” Moore said of the school board meetings. “It’s a formal setting, like a business meeting, that you don’t get in the high school.”

School board member Margaret Carlson said she values the input from Moore as a district stakeholder.

“We really appreciate hearing input and updates straight from the source,” Carlson said in an e-mail. “Likewise, the experience of participating in school and other community committees is of value to the students, who can gain an understanding of leadership and governance models. It also gives them a chance to report back to their peers, which incorporates both communication and leadership skills.”

Moore said she sometimes doesn’t understand all the discussions, but simply being exposed to budget matters, for example, helps her learn. In addition to learning from observation, Moore learns how to communicate – a valuable leadership skill, she said. She conveys a student perspective to school board members and relays information back to her classmates.

At the latest Summit School Board meeting, Moore asked if there was a way students could support the Citizens for Strong Summit Schools campaign for ballot initiative 3B support. Campaign organizers suggested assisting with canvassing, and Moore’s subsequent peer discussions resulted in the group assembling a volunteer opportunity on Wednesday evening at the Keystone Center. Through the event, interested students could promote the ballot initiative to the general public by writing postcards, creating posters for a “honk and wave” event and making phone calls. It was not a class requirement to attend, according to Summit School District climate and communication coordinator Julie McCluskie.

Senior Emily Morgan, who is not a part of SHS Leadership, attended the canvassing event. She said she’s passionate about the 3B ballot initiative.

“Our schools need funding,” she said. “Nothing else should be cut – education is important.”

The primary focus of SHS Leadership at the start of the year is executing homecoming week, Tomlinson said. A summer retreat for the students jump-starts the process, so they can “hit the ground running” when school starts, he added.

“There’s a lot of leadership to be learned through planning a simple week of homecoming events,” he said, such as communicating with town officials to plan a parade, planning in teams, budgeting, ordering materials, contracting with disc jockeys and more.

Moore said the leadership class recently went to a state conference where about 30 other schools shared ideas. The plan is to implement some of those ideas, such as ways to build student involvement in the community. One upcoming school event is a breast cancer awareness and fundraising day called “Wear Pink Wednesday” – it takes place Oct 27.

Tomlinson said another SHS Leadership student is heading up an effort to reach out to students with severe disabilities to get them more connected with the school’s sports and activity culture.

“They see they can effect change,” Tomlinson said. “They see things and bring them to the table to discuss and figure out a way to change it.”

SDN reporter Janice Kurbjun can be contacted at (970) 668-4630 or at jkurbjun@summitdaily.com.


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