The vision is clear: Using the leadership skills they have learned at Cardinal Gibbons, a group of current students will help cultivate and develop those same skills in middle school students throughout the Diocese of Raleigh. They realized that vision today by leading the annual Middle School Leadership Conference, drawing 100 sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grade students from 12 area schools.
The October 26th conference, which ran from 9 AM to 2 PM, explored the academic, spiritual, athletic, and communal aspects of leadership in the middle school community. Gabi Burn '08 and fellow science educator and alumna Lauren Gentile '04 helped plan the conference, now in its fifth year, with about 40 Gibbons student leaders.
This year, the conference focused on a return to basics, rather than on leadership theory as in past years, said Burn. Many of Gibbons student leaders attended the conference as middle schooler students, she explained and added: “They wanted to get down to the basics and help participants take the steps necessary not only to learn about leadership, but also to have the confidence to put what they learned into practice.”
During the conference, middle school students attended a welcome and opening activity as well as informational and learning sessions, each led by Gibbons student leaders. The sessions this year centered on such topics as the meaning of leadership and building relationships, leading with confidence, identifying core values, and networking and relationships.
Sophia Jenny ’20 attended the conference as both a seventh-grader and eighth-grader at The Franciscan School and today she was one of the Gibbons student leaders. She said as a middle school participant she wanted to interact with other students “who were as excited about leadership as she was, form connections around the diocese, and learn to lead by example.” As a student leader, she said she wanted not only to do the same for today’s conference attendees but also “to let them know there are many different types of leaders, like quiet students who lead by example even when no one is looking.”
Joe Roche, a seventh-grader at Our Lady of Lourdes School, said his favorite part of the conference was, “getting to know some little detail about other participants, enabling me to become closer to them and relate to them.” Asked what he learned, Joe said: “Be outward – if there is something you want to do, put yourself out there and just do it.” He said he also intends “to relate more to his educators,” when he returns to his school.
The hope, Burn noted, is that the conference will equip students in our middle schools with the skills necessary to step out of their comfort zone and form relationships with other leaders as well as educators at their schools.
For the second consecutive year, there also was a parent engagement session, which included a social and fellowship breakfast as well as a luncheon, activities, and/or a tour of Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral, hosted by the Cardinal Gibbons Family Association (CGFA). “The session was an opportunity for CGFA to facilitate a conversation with middle school educators and parents around parent engagement, and to talk about the evolution of parent engagement at Gibbons,” explained Gibbons Parent and CGFA Co-President Karen Woomer. “It also gave us the chance to share ideas and learn from one another.”
Carolyn Landenberg from St. Mark’s Catholic School in Wilmington attended the parent engagement session while her son, Sebastian, participated in the conference. Asked what she hoped to take with her from the conference Landenberg said: “I want to teach my child to be a positive influence in leadership today and that we all need to work together.”