The Annual Student Leadership Conference has been sponsored for the past twenty-seven years by the Virginia School-University Partnership (which is transitioning to the new name of the Virginia School Consortium for Learning). Each year, VSUP-VaSCL invites teams of High School students and their Faculty Advisors to attend this leadership conference at no charge, as a benefit of their school division’s membership in VSUP-VaSCL.
The theme of the 2017 Student Leadership Conference was “Living Local, Going Global,” and VSUP-VaSCL was pleased to partner with EF Education First in planning and putting on the event. This year’s Student Leadership Conference continued the work of exploring the VDOE “Profile of a Virginia Graduate” that began at last year’s event, but the focus was narrowed to the “Community Engagement and Civic Responsibility” strand of the Profile, with a particular emphasis on becoming a Global Citizen. (Click Here for a Complete Report on the 2016 Student Leadership Conference.)
The goal of the 2017 VSUP-VaSCL Student Leadership Conference was to inspire participants to make connections with and develop empathy for other people whose lives and experiences are different from their own. All conference sessions focused on encouraging students to become more engaged in the world around them and emphasized the importance of demonstrating their respect for others through their words and actions.
During the Opening General Session, four different high school and college students gave presentations on global travel experiences which had inspired them and made them want to become Global Citizens who could help make a difference in the world. These presentations, as well as a video and various reflective activities, helped the 350 high school students and their faculty advisors who attended this year’s conference begin the day’s exploration of the challenges and rewards of Global Citizenship.
During the conference, all students also participated in small group sessions, which gave them the chance to learn more about their peers from the forty-five high schools, representing thirty-two different school divisions, which participated in the conference. The small group sessions were led by high school seniors who had attended a special training session for their role as facilitators. These Senior Facilitators were paired with Adult Facilitators, who had led sessions at the International Global Leadership Summit, which EF Education First sponsors each year for high school students. The small group sessions were intended to help students grow as leaders by giving them the opportunity to share their experiences and collaborate with other students in coming up with creative approaches to problems faced by their schools, communities, and the world.
While students met in small groups, their faculty advisors were encouraged to participate in a Professional Learning Session in which they explored the concept of Global Citizenship and how the goals of the “Community Engagement and Civic Responsibility” strand of the Profile of a Virginia Graduate could best be realized in their schools. This session also gave Faculty Advisors the chance to “network” with their peers and to discuss the challenges and successes they had experienced in working with student leaders.
All conference participants also attended a Share Fair Assembly, during which schools were given the opportunity to make formal presentations about some program, activity, or event at their school that they were proud of and thought students from other high schools would like to learn more about. In keeping with this year’s theme of “Living Local, Going Global,” schools were asked to focus their Share Fair Presentations on something that had been particularly successful with their students in promoting cultural empathy and awareness.
The Student Leadership Conference concluded with a Closing Ceremony during which representatives from each of the fourteen small groups presented their group’s “Wordmash” and “Portrait” of a Global Citizen. There were many enthusiastic celebrations of the new friendships students had formed and the new ideas they had embraced as a result of spending the day learning from their peers.
The hope is that participating in the 2017 VSUP-VaSCL Student Leadership Conference enhanced students’ respect for the diversity of individuals, groups, and cultures in their own local area of Virginia, as well as in the rest of the world, thus helping students to become better leaders of their schools and communities.