Leading with altitude

Posted 7/2/09

It was a weekend three years in the making with 23 committee co-chairs and one adviser. The National Association of Student Councils came to …

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Leading with altitude


It was a weekend three years in the making with 23 committee co-chairs and one adviser.

The National Association of Student Councils came to Highlands Ranch High School.

The conference’s objective is furthering leadership skills for 1,500 council members and 500 advisers from across the United States and Puerto Rico.

Participants were polled in various sessions to get a feel for the needs in high schools.

One poll asked what issue represents the greatest challenge at your school.

The responses showed that 37 percent of the delegates saw tolerance for ethnic and gender diversity was a challenge, followed by dropout rates at 25 percent, bullying and safety at 22 percent, and health and nutrition at 16 percent.

Student councils are probably misunderstood by most students. Effectively, they function as a liaison body between students and administration, often deciding on event themes, charitable work and providing the student view for school issues.

One poll asked each representative’s priorities for the 2009-10 school year.

Increasing student participation in council events received 42 percent of the vote. Improving service and charitable projects netted 31 percent while regular meetings with principals and positioning the council as more than a social activity director both get 13 percent of the votes.

In 2006, Rashaan Davis, student council adviser, learned that the school was selected to host the 2009 national conference.

“We talked to others who had hosted conferences and asked a lot of questions,” Davis said. “From there, we put together a plan.”

Highlands Ranch High students attended three other national conferences, gleaning what worked, what didn’t and what they wanted to do in 2009.

They created the theme leadership with altitude, playing on the elevation of the area.

The registration packet includes a warning to get hydrated and stay hydrated during the conference.

The four days were not all spent in classrooms. Trips to Elitch Gardens and Boulder showed the Colorado experience. Delegates held a candle light ceremony at the University of Colorado’s Folsom Field.

The ceremony is a tradition dating to the first conference.

Back in the Ranch, Chelsea Miller directs people to lines for vegetarian or carnivore burritos early in the morning of June 30.

Miller has been involved since the beginning and wonders what the next days will bring.

“The conference went by so fast,” Miller said. “I’ve been planning for so long that I thought these would be the longest days of my life. I don’t know what I’ll do all summer.”

Miller, an incoming senior, oversaw designing signs and decorations for the conference. Others handled hotel and transportation logistics, public relations, security, registration and a thousand other tasks.

Students from Chaparral High School in Parker also pitched in.

Delegates trade shirts as a matter of course, bringing several copies of a few designs.

Davis watched as delegates flowed into the eating area.

“You never get to have that cohort of kids that long in high school, see those children every year, every day,” Davis said. “They have a passion for the mission. These kids know process.”


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