November 14, 2013

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For over twenty years, The Virginia School University Partnership has sponsored an Annual Student Leadership Conference.  This very popular conference, which was attended this year by 430 students and faculty members from 34 different high schools from around the state, was absolutely FREE to VSUP member high schools as a benefit of membership in VSUP.

The theme of the 2013-2014 Student Leadership Conference, which was held on Thursday, November 14, at The Holiday Inn in Charlottesville, Virginia, was “Leaving a Legacy.”   This year’s conference continued VSUP’s work with Rachel’s Challenge, the non-profit organization which provided the Keynote Address and Training at the 2012-2013 Student Leadership Conference.

Dave Gamache delivered the Keynote Speech at this year’s conference on “Rachel’s Legacy,” providing a follow-up program which built on last year’s Keynote on “Rachel’s Challenge” by exploring the legacy that Rachel Scott left in the lives of the people around her.  Through a series of stories told from the perspective of those whom Rachel touched, the presentation on “Rachel’s Legacy” encouraged this year’s conference participants to take specific steps toward making their own positive legacy a reality.

Both the Keynote Address and the ninety minute “Friends of Rachel Training,” which was also provided for school teams by Dave Gamache from Rachel’s Challenge, helped conference participants realize that they are not defined by the labels that they or others have placed upon them, by their current circumstances, nor by the things that have happened to them in the past.  Students learned that they can leave their own legacy of kindness by showing compassion, practicing acceptance, learning from their own mistakes, and forgiving themselves and others.

During the course of the day, students participated in a “Chain Reaction” Activity, which enabled them to meet a large number of different students from the 34 high schools who participated in this year’s conference.  A new Twitter activity was introduced at this year’s event, and students were encouraged to tweet their responses to the conference throughout the day, using the hashtag #VSUPRC.

Students also took part in a one hour discussion of a topic of their choosing with a diverse group of 20-25 other students from the other high schools which were represented at the conference.  These discussions, on nine different topics which were selected by participating schools ahead of time, were led by seniors who had volunteered to serve as Senior Facilitators.  The discussion groups enabled participants to learn from each other how they can best deal with the various issues that they are facing in their schools.  Notes from the eighteen different groups have been submitted by Senior Facilitators and are now posted on the VSUP website, so that SLC participants can benefit from all of these different discussions.

The VSUP Student Leadership Conference each year is planned and led by students from member high schools.  All current VSUP High Schools were contacted in early December and asked to participate in the preliminary planning of VSUP’s Annual Student Leadership Conference for 2014-2015.

If you are interested in learning more about VSUP’s Student Leadership Conference, please contact Liza Scallet, VSUP Conference Coordinator, at