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Middle School Leadershhip Conference 2019 participants.
Rachelle Garbarine

Student leaders, using the skills they gained at Cardinal Gibbons, helped over 90 middle school students from the Diocese of Raleigh learn how to be effective leaders.

 

 

Middle School Leadership 2019 middle school participants and Gibbons leaders

What does it take to be an effective leader? To answer that question student leaders, using the skills they gained at Cardinal Gibbons, helped over 90 middle school students from the Diocese of Raleigh discover those same skills and learn how to use them effectively during the fifth annual Middle School Leadership Conference.

“The conference also grows the network of student leaders in the diocese and encourages them to practice their skills at an early age. And that, to me, has a rippling effect that is far greater and goes beyond just our diocesan community," said Gabi Burn '08.

The one-day conference took place on October 25 and ran from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. At the conference, students explored the definition of leadership, core values, the skills and qualities of leaders, and how students can exemplify these skills through their leadership in the middle school community. 

“The hope of the conference is to spark the growth of leadership in our Catholic middle schools and instill new skills that those students who attend can then share with their school community when they return,” said Gabi Burn '08, director of leadership formation and science educator. She and fellow science educator and alumna Lauren Gentile '04 helped plan the conference, with over 30 Gibbons student leaders.

Gabi and Lauren lead Middle School Leadership Conference.

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 leadership styles, leading through relationships, team building, and identifying core values.

New this year was the addition of a student leader panel. The panel included interviewing four students about their middle school and high school leadership experiences. All of the students on the panel attended the Gibbons Middle School Leadership Conference when then were in middle school and are conference leaders. Those students, all seniors, were Sophia Jenny ’20, Daniel Mazzerina ’20, Natalie Thornburg ’20, and Jenna Hackett ’20.

So, what do attendees enjoy most about the conference? “They enjoy the opportunity to meet other student leaders in the diocese, and to see their potential to become leaders as they watch our students lead,” Burn said. “Student leaders designed the conference’s content and sessions, so the things they learned and the messages they heard were relevant to their leadership experience as middle schoolers.”

Students also said they left with a better understanding of what it takes to be a leader. Maddie Pennisi, a seventh-grader at Our Lady of Lourdes (OLL,) said she learned the importance for leaders “to form relationships and have good communication skills.” She said she hopes to utilize those skills when she returns to OLL “to help me be an effective leader on student council and to plan events at my school.”

Parents at parent engagement session of MLC 2019.

Parents also benefited from the conference. For the third consecutive year, there also was a parent engagement session, which included a social and fellowship breakfast as well as a luncheon and activities hosted by the Cardinal Gibbons Family Association. 

Cristine Burfeind from the Franciscan School (TFS) attended the parent engagement session while her son, Evan, a seventh-grader at TFS, participated in the conference. “The conference helps to reinforce leadership skills in middle school students and enables them to meet leaders from other schools,” Burfeind said. “It also bridges a gap between the middle schools and the high school, which is a positive.”

Asked why it is vital to continue this annual event, Burn said, “ it brings our middle schools together in a way that allows students to feel empowered to enhance their middle school experiences and gives them some practice in the skills necessary to do so.

“It also grows the network of student leaders in the diocese and encourages them to practice their skills at an early age,” she added. “And that, to me, has a rippling effect that is far greater and goes beyond just our diocesan community…”

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 Leading by Example
Rachelle Garbarine

Gibbons students helped cultivate and develop leadership skills in middle school students at the Fifth Annual Middle School Leadership Conference.

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.

Middle School Leadership Conference 2018

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.”

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