Participants in Rappahannock Community College’s Student Ambassador program had the opportunity, November 6-8, to attend a weekend Student Leadership Conference sponsored by the Virginia Community College System (VCCS).
The purpose of this event, titled “The Power of YOU,” was to bring out leadership qualities in each of the attendees — a message that echoed a Ray Kroc quote featured by the organizers, “The quality of a leader is reflected in the standards they set for themselves.”
“I went into the conference thinking it was going to be lecturers and presentations to ‘better’ our schools,” said student attendee Matt Webb of Richmond County. “I thought it was going to be boring … I was extremely wrong.”
About the “Dance Floor Theory” session on the first evening, he says, “I’ve always had a positive attitude, willing to be the first one dancing, but the thought of actively trying to get others involved never occurred to me. Now I know it’s a lot more than that. If I can get one person to open up, then they could do the same with others. One person losing out is never truly just one.”
Reflecting on the weekend, Webb called it “fun and inviting. The conference showed us how we as individuals can truly learn to help other students become more involved in school activities.”
Two sessions were led by current or former RCC staffers. In “Dare to be Different in a World Full of Copycats,” former RCC counselor Nic’ole Conway used interactive sessions to transform negative self-perceptions, guiding students to discover their own worth, embrace the unique differences of each individual, and celebrate the hidden treasures within themselves and others.
RCC’s dean of student development, Dr. David Keel, led “Oh, the Places You’ll Go,” focusing on the many and varied choices open to a community college student transferring to a four-year school. He covered the essential information and preparations needed for the transfer process, whether the student does or does not use one of the VCCS’s Guaranteed Admissions Agreements. “From a Virginia community college,” he asserted, “you can go anywhere!”
Davina Peters of Middlesex said that her favorite activities were the S.A.L.S.A. Life (a dance exercise that focused on Supporting, Acting, Learning, Striving and Accepting) and the group of African dancers, because “they create such a great energy and place of togetherness for one night.” She emphasized that “we are all one yet perfectly and uniquely individual.”
Jasmin Shipp of Northumberland echoed Peter’s assessment of the African dancers’ session, saying it was her favorite “because there was so much energy and joy in the room.”
A program that made a profound emotional impact on the students was called “The Wall.” This was an interactive exercise that examined negative stereotypes affecting various groups of people. Mary Skinner of Gloucester said she cried hearing of a Muslim girl called a “terrorist,” of a multi-ethnic girl called a “mutt,” as well as others who were gay or mentally challenged — all of whom were “mistreated and judged unfairly.” She said the exercise “managed to unite a group of students who had never seen each other before. It opened our hearts to do something about the suffering endured by people around us, instead of sitting idly by and hoping the problem goes away on its own.”
Shanequa Holden of Essex, also moved by the experience of “The Wall,” said, “It was powerful and heartfelt, and everyone came together that day with love and respect for one another.”
Among the other sessions were “The World Needs More Love Letters” (a global initiative to send handwritten letters to those in need of encouragement); “Career Decision Making: What Choice Will You Make?”; “Secrets to Getting Your Dream Job or Internship”; and “Professional Dining Savvy” (setting forth rules of behavior that will make a favorable impression on dining companions).
Also included were “Time Mastery: 7 Simple Steps for Richer Outcomes”; “Skills + Value = Outcome: How to write a fantastic resume”; “So You Want to Be a RAKtivist?” (how to make the world a nicer place by encouraging Random Acts of Kindness); “WIZARD: Reborn” (an overview of the new and improved Virginia Education Wizard website); “Ethics for Leaders”; “Ideas for Community Involvement”; and “Overcoming Obstacles” in order to reach goals and attain success.
When asked for feedback about their conference experience, the attendees’ comments included “The one thing I took back with me was just to smile … because you never know who’s having a rough day, and you can be all it takes to make it better.”
The three-day event was summarized by West Point’s Kenneth Armstead, who felt that the conference would help all attendees “become better leaders for RCC.” Chris Sheppard of Middlesex stated, “I would definitely go again!”
RCC’s student ambassadors help, among other things, to plan recurring college events, work together to create and implement new events, and conduct outreach programs for other students. About 20 exceptional students — half from the Glenns Campus and half from Warsaw — are chosen for this important role. The group meets weekly with RCC’s director of student activities to brainstorm ideas for making college more rewarding and enjoyable for their fellow students.