Gibbons Leadership Community
The Gibbons Leadership Community (GLC) is a network of select and diverse student leaders at Cardinal Gibbons High School. The purpose of this group is to empower and enable the leadership abilities of our students in order to enhance all aspects of the Cardinal Gibbons community.
At the annual summer conference, as well as the monthly meetings throughout the year, twenty-five students will be educated in the mission of Cardinal Gibbons High School and shown the many ways they can share their God-given gifts with the community. An adult team, consisting of ten educators and conference leader Gabi Burn 08', Director of Leadership Formation.
For more information, please contact Mrs. Gabi Burn.
Students will be selected through nominations done by educators as well as students who attended GLC in the past years that are current students. Any interested student is encouraged to reach out to any of the educators or GLC participants with whom they have worked with over the past two to three years to express their interest in being nominated.
- Meaningful Leadership Experiences: An Experiment
- PLC to GLC: Planting the Seeds of Leadership
- Empowering Experimentation: The 9 AM Start
- The Leadership Forum: Reflecting and Preparing
Being part of the Cardinal Gibbons community has taught me so many important things about myself and about how to live a full and rewarding life. One of the most important habits that I have developed in my time at Cardinal Gibbons is purposeful reflection. To help bring meaning and purpose to our lives, we must take time to explore the meaning and purpose behind our experiences so that we can learn from them and carry with us new knowledge and insight. As I prepare myself for class placement and changes in student leadership for 2016-2017, I want to make sure I take the time to pause and reflect. What have I learned in the past three years of teaching at Gibbons? How will I continue to try and work with students in a meaningful way?
It wasn’t until my junior year at Gibbons that I really began to appreciate my school. It was a special place- a place that deeply cared for its students and provided opportunities for growth and discovery. I felt a call to return to teach at Gibbons simply because I felt like my time there was not over. I remember giving a speech my senior year at the stewardship mass about how I wanted to return and teach environmental science. I wanted to have the same impact on students that my teachers and mentors had on me. I wanted to contribute to this special community. I explored other options in college, but when the time came to look for jobs, I immediately returned to Cardinal Gibbons. And the rest is history!
In my three years working at Gibbons, I have developed a passion for student leadership. I learned so much from the opportunities and failures that I experienced at Gibbons as a leader and a follower, that I think it is critical to provide even better learning opportunities for our students. It is so exciting to see students that have academic and professional potential. With even more opportunities, they can be lead down a path of learning, guided self-discovery, and autonomy. But who will provide those opportunities? How can we ensure that the experience of those opportunities is valuable? Impactful? Meaningful?
Scientists perform experiments to seek answers to big questions. Coming from a science background, it makes sense to take an experimental approach to begin to develop an answer to these questions. I have always been taught by this school that failure is a success- it helps develop stronger leadership skills and teaches important lessons. So, I will be conducting a series of leadership experiments. And through some failures, I will get closer and closer to finding an answer that can help support and strengthen student leadership at Cardinal Gibbons. Now…where will I begin?
As my work with the Middle School Leadership conference team comes to a close, I am beginning to think about next year and what this program will look like. We have selected rising leaders and are beginning discussions on how we will form a team, but this is the typical pattern of every organization every year. I want to challenge my old and rising team leaders to reflect on their experiences as well as evaluate the congruency of our program with the mission of our organization. Do we have to do it the way we are doing it now? Or is there something completely different we can do to develop leadership in middle schools? I want to give our leadership team an opportunity to be collaborative, creative, and to have ownership. How many times a year does a moderator or a coach sit down with team leaders and reflect? John Dewey, American psychologist and philosopher said, “We don’t learn from experience, we learn from reflecting on experience.” We often times get so caught up with what needs to be done, that we don’t have time to take a look at what we’ve done and evaluate. Providing opportunities for us to do that with our student leaders is critical to growth in our programs, and teaches our students the important lesson of purposeful reflection. Stay tuned for the results if this experiment and many more to come this Spring!
Gabi Burn 08'
Spring time is here- the time of the year when planet earth explodes with new life. Many of us spend time during the first few weekends of spring planting beautiful flowers and trees in celebration of the new season. This year I was very excited about the warm weather coming early, so I planted quite a few pots of plants for my porch. I quickly realized, however, that I hadn’t put any thought into the preparation. Should I have used a different soil? How often should I water these plants? What should they be fed? What happens if it gets too cold? As quick and excited as I was to plant my seeds, I realized I hadn’t put much thought into preparing the medium in which my plants would grow. How is this lack of preparation going to impact the potential for my flowers to bloom?
This lesson for a rookie gardener is a good one- plants need a fertile, stable, and supportive medium for them to sprout, grow, and blossom. The preparation necessary to have a successful garden takes time, and as excited as we might be for the first signs of spring, we must take the time necessary to provide what our plants need to ensure a successful growing season.
As I thought about this more, I realized that this is a lesson that transcends gardening. How do we do this in our own lives? How do we spend time preparing ourselves for what we want to accomplish? And further, how are we spending the time preparing and taking care of the seeds that we plant within our students here at CGHS?
The first thing that comes to mind when contemplating the answer to this question is the Principal’s Leadership Conference (PLC). This opportunity plants the seed of leadership in our students, which can then be cared for and nurtured throughout their final year at CGHS, and can continue growing in their lives after Gibbons. PLC, started by Principal Jason Curtis almost ten years ago, is an intensive three-day experience for a select and diverse group of senior student leaders at Cardinal Gibbons High School. The purpose of this conference is to empower student leadership abilities in order to enhance all aspects of the Cardinal Gibbons community and provide an opportunity for leadership development.
These seeds that have been planted through PLC have allowed for leadership to bloom on our campus. It has made a significant impact on the culture of our school- students are more aware of their own leadership skills and can work together to develop ideas for initiatives and changes in our community.
Mike Rogosich, Assistant Principal of Student Activities, has seen the impact of this program at Gibbons: “Since PLC’s inception, it has given teachers and students a lexicon of leadership with which to work and collaborate. It has given students a tool box that they never knew they had. It’s given them power—power to recognize themselves as leaders, power to create other leaders. Can you imagine what your life would be like if at age 17 someone told you in unapologetic confident terms that you were a leader?”
By way of example, John Cunningham 14’, a PLC alumni, reflects on the importance of PLC: “PLC is an important opportunity for Gibbons students because it connects them from different people on campus that they would most likely have no interaction with. Connecting different leaders from a variety of student groups helps intertwine each group’s vision into a shared vision for Cardinal Gibbons. By bringing some of the best leaders of the school together, students can also learn new leadership strategies from their peers. Through PLC, I learned that it is important to make sure people know they are working with you, not for you. It also taught me that a good leader has a vision and can motivate people to work with together to reach their goal.”
As an alumni of both CGHS and PLC, I am incredibly passionate about this program simply because of how much it impacted me. I did not consider myself a “leader” and never thought about leadership until I was selected for this opportunity. This conference planted the seed of leadership in me. The lessons I learned and the awareness I gained from PLC enriched my college experiences, and led me to apply and eventually be accepted into the Elon University Leadership Program as the student director. This opportunity allowed me to continue the process of developing my own skills, identifying my leadership characteristics, and building lasting relationships with my professors and peers.
The issue, as we all know, is that building relationships and developing skills takes time. What would my leadership journey look like had I started sooner? How much stronger and more meaningful would my leadership experiences be had I started nurturing those skills, characteristics, and relationships earlier on in my high school career? How would that have enhanced my work in college? PLC has always been designed for seniors. But what would the impact of the conference be like if we planted this seed in Gibbons students in their junior year, so that we could spend the time we need preparing and nourishing the medium of their growth?
PLC has served a fantastic purpose at Gibbons by creating a well-understood culture of leadership among our seniors and faculty and staff. Now that this has been accomplished, we have an opportunity to extend this understanding and culture to more students at CGHS. This year, PLC will include rising seniors AND rising juniors. By planting this seed earlier on, it will give students more time in their high school career to experience growth by building relationships, trying new things, failing, and trying again under the guidance and enrichment of our faculty and staff.
The key to the success of this program and this new change is the involvement of our school community. It is up to us to not only spend the time identifying and recognizing the leaders that have potential, but to also use our own set of skills to water, fertilize, and care for their newly planted seeds. This conference is not just about the Principal and administrators engaging students in leadership, it is about everyone’s involvement- the future of our school is in the hands of those that we choose to empower. To reflect the importance of this to the entire school community, we will be officially changing the name of the conference to the Gibbons Leadership Conference (GLC).
Just like in a garden, we need to prepare our plants for a successful growing season. We cannot expect to plant a seed and simply hope that it will grow and blossom into what we want it to be. The process of cultivating leadership in our students needs time- and that time will be provided by initiating this process sooner in our students’ careers.
In the past, the Principal’s Leadership Conference has paved the way for students and faculty to learn about leadership and make effective changes that have a positive impact on our community. The work of our school community in conjunction with Principal’s Leadership Conference has helped shape the future of student professional development and leadership development on our campus. It is time to clear the land, fertilize the soil, and plant the seeds of leadership in our junior and senior classes so that we may enrich the legacy of leadership at CGHS.
Gabi Burn 08'
Experimentation is happening on our campus almost every single day. Whether it is teachers trying new lesson plans or online tools, or students trying out creative ways to get other students involved on campus- it is experimentation that leads us to new ideas and figuring out what works on our campus and what doesn’t. However, taking our big questions and actually making an experiment happen is extremely difficult. How will we go about seeking the answers we are looking for? How long will it take? What will we need? Who will help? What if we fail?
One of the best parts about working at Gibbons is the willingness from our school community to take on our big questions and support the exploration and experimentation of new ideas. This willingness and support can be seen through the success of Leadership Forum, which we held for the second time this year. We have also seen this through many other experimental programs that have found their place at our school like freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior Focus programs, the Middle School Leadership Conference, and even the All-Crusader Awards, our first athletics awards event. It is through this experimentation that we have found new ways to engage students and adults on campus. But what is it exactly about the Gibbons culture that encourages others to try something new? How are we enabling others to act and creating a comfortable environment for our community to experiment with new ideas?
One of the most recent campus experiments experienced by all of the school community was the 9 am start. On typical Wednesdays, our students get out of classes at 2:15, leaving 45 minutes of after school time before any after school activities start at 3:30 pm. Nancy Barkan, Assistant Principal of Instruction at CGHS, met with teachers last May about the value of Wednesday afternoons, and many teachers shared that these afternoons can be challenging- folks make appointments, coaches leave for practice and games, and afternoons can be challenging for learning. In response to this bigger question (how can we make Wednesday more valuable?) Mrs. Barkan decided to experiment with the Wednesday schedule and try something new. One of the key aspects of this decision was the support she had from her fellow colleagues and administrators- she said, “I felt completely empowered to do this.” As a result of the feedback and the support of the community, we adopted the 9 am start schedule- one day each month where school would start at 9 am, leaving the hour before school starts for collaboration among faculty, staff, and students.
The idea for shifting the schedule to the 9 am start came from the Advanc-ED accreditation process last year. While collecting data from the school community, teachers expressed a need for more time for collaboration and professional development opportunities during the school year. The idea of the 9 am start also allowed some experimentation with opportunities for students- even some unstructured time with meaning and purpose like the Leadership Forum. Mrs. Barkan’s vision for the 9 am start was to “have meaningful professional development opportunities throughout the year using time that is already part of a teacher’s work day without impacting instructional time.”
This experiment proved to have many areas of success. The biggest success of the schedule change was seen in the organization and planning of the days. There were six days total to take advantage of- two which were designed for students, and the other four days were for faculty and staff. The student days were used to provide opportunities for them to learn strategies to improve how they prepare and perform on semester assessments (essays, exams, projects, labs, etc) as well as strategies for time management and stress management. In the spring, we provided students with unstructured time to explore electives, Fine Art classes, AP classes and other academic courses. The four faculty and staff events provided time to collaborate, work with students, serve the community, and share gifts and talents with members of the faculty and staff. Nancy Barkan reflected on these events, saying “Looking at the year as a whole, faculty and staff were engaged and willing to either lead or participate in various aspects. Their willingness to help plan, help lead and help guide colleagues made the events more personal and therefore, successful.”
Like most experiments, there are always some areas of improvement. One of the things that made this change difficult was the traffic in the morning that we don’t usually experience because we arrive to school earlier. In terms of student participation, a good percentage of our students did attend the student focused sessions, but there is always room for more participation on these days. There was a significant increase in student participation in our second student event, which could have been attributed to better communication and “marketing” of that day to kids and parents. Though there were some unsuccessful aspects of the change, those unsuccessful aspects have helped us identify what works and what doesn’t. This idea of learning from failure rather than fearing it also contributes to the willingness of our community to try out something new, knowing they will still benefit regardless if the concept or idea will continue on in the future.
Experimenting and trying new things is important at CGHS because from those experiences, we learn. However, making that leap of faith and taking the risk isn’t easy, no matter if you are a teacher or even an administrator. Nancy Barkan reflects on her experiences as an administrator in this position: “I have felt empowered to try new things since taking on this job. This experiment affirmed what I know to be true about CG – if you have a vision for something and it is tied to the mission and you can engage willing participants (faculty, staff, students and families), you will experience some level of personal and professional joy. It doesn’t have to work perfectly or work the same each time, but there is always something positive that comes out of it. “
The key to the success of this experiment was the willingness of our school community to support and engage in it, which creates a comfortable environment for individuals to put themselves out there and try out something new. Through this type of culture, we are able to further explore the opportunities that truly enhance our mission and create more meaningful experiences for our students, faculty, and staff. Whether or not we see the 9 am start schedule in the future, this experiment was a valuable learning opportunity that will continue to encourage the creation and experimentation of new ideas at CGHS.
In just one week, AP exams will begin, marking the beginning of the end of the 2015-2016 school year. This is a time of year that can be stressful to many- the community is working to tie up loose ends for this current year while at the same time, doing work to prepare for the coming school year. Amidst AP exams, seniors’ last few weeks at school, and final exams for the semester, the end of the year seems to pass us by. Next thing you know, the final bell has rung, our students have cleared out, and summer has begun. Are we rushing through this period too quickly? How are we spending time with our students in this last month not only preparing them for the end, but also preparing them for what’s to come in the next year?
As our time with our seniors comes to a close, we spend our last few weeks celebrating with the school community- cap and gown distribution, end of the year barbecues, and college shirt days are just a few of the ways we celebrate the beginning of a new chapter for our seniors. There is so much ahead of them to look forward to- but what about the past four years they just spent at CGHS? As I have mentioned in previous posts, one of the most important things I learned from my time here at Gibbons is how to reflect. Without reflection, we cannot find meaning and purpose from the experiences we have had in our lives. When are we providing our seniors that time to reflect? As we prepare them for what is to come, how are we spending time with them looking back? What did they learn? What did they wish they knew as a freshman, or a sophomore, or as a junior that they know now? Some of the best advice I have ever received from my mentors have been lessons that they learned from experience. As our most experienced group of student leaders head out the door, how are we giving them the opportunities to share their most valued experiences with younger students in the community?
On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have our freshman, sophomores, and juniors, who are in a completely different place during this time of year. There is so much left for these students- AP exams, final projects, final exams at the end of the semester…AND there are games to be played, concerts to be had, and awards to be given. Next thing you know, the school year is over and there is little time and energy left for anything else. How are we setting them up for success in the following year? What are we doing to prepare them for when they walk into the door another year older, with new responsibilities, and new opportunities? Napoleon Bonaparte once said, “Ability is nothing without opportunity.” How are we giving students with leadership abilities the opportunity to be better leaders in the future by exposing them to new opportunities and learning from their peers?
Often times we make excuses about the fact that there is no “time” to do this. Amidst all of our responsibilities and tasks that need to be done before the school year ends, it is hard to find that extra time to have these important conversations with our students. On the morning of Wednesday, April 27th, our entire school will join together in the main lobby to take the timenecessary to reflect and prepare. The Leadership Forum, an idea generated through the work done on past Principal’s Leadership Conferences, is an event that provides the opportunity to make our campus clubs, organizations, events, teams, and groups more visible to our community. What opportunities are available to our campus leaders that might peak their interests? What groups or activities can provide our leaders with the opportunities necessary for them to learn and grow in their leadership journeys? Who is in need of leaders to start making a vision a reality? This is the time for our freshman, sophomore, and junior students to pause through the rush of the end of the year and to think about preparing for new opportunities and experiences in the new school year.
What about our seniors? How do they fit into this picture? The seniors are what makes this event special and timely. This is the opportunity for our seniors to reflect and give away the knowledge and the lessons they learned throughout their four years as leaders at this school. Within their respective clubs, groups, teams, and activities, they will be able to spend this time with the younger students preparing them for next year, which can be done in a variety of ways. Our athletic team captains can be working together on service project ideas for next year. What was done this year? What went well? What needs work? Our clubs seniors can work on sharing their mission with the community and brainstorming projects and events for next year. What event never happened that our seniors want to see next year? What events did happen that need new leaders to take it over? Even our faculty and staff can take advantage of this opportunity. What project or events did they want to participate in, but never had the time to look into? Have we discovered a need for something new at our school that could be implemented next year through the work of adult leaders? For our school to continue down a path of growth and development, we need to pass on our knowledge and experiences so that our campus leaders can continue moving us in the right direction.
Our teachers are committed to student development because I see it every day. Through the efforts of many of our faculty and staff members, we have not only enhanced existing campus programs but created new ones through leadership, collaboration, and commitment. As I spend time working on different projects and opportunities on campus, I can see the work that is being done behind the scenes- which stems from our level of care for our students. I am incredibly honored to work with people who are dedicated to the development of our students and the future generation of our church and school community. The Leadership Forum is the vessel for us to create meaningful reflection among our seniors and to expose and prepare our younger students for the opportunities that have been thoughtfully developed by our school community.
On the day of the Leadership Forum, our freshman and sophomores will hear from an alumni, Anthony Palumbo ’14, about his transition into leadership at a young age. Our juniors will hear from one of our seniors, Steven Fedorovich, about the transition from junior year to senior year, and the responsibilities and opportunities that come with it. Our seniors will set themselves up throughout the main lobby, gym, and cafeteria, where various student clubs, groups, organizations, teams, and events will have tables with information to provide to our younger students. Then, for about thirty minutes, we will give our community the time so that they can explore, converse, connect, learn, and reflect. The entire school will be in one place on April 27th, and it will be up to each of us to take advantage of the opportunities that await us for the 2016-2017 school year.
Gabi Burn 08'