Student leaders from ten local schools gathered at The Haverford School for the Foundations of Leadership Summit Conference Aug. 17-18. The conference, led by Haverford and Germantown Academy, provided students with tools and strategies for character development and authentic leadership. It also kicked off a new partnership between the Character Lab and Haverford -- one of four schools nationwide selected to be part of the Character Lab Research Network.
"Our relationship with the Character Lab is going to allow our students the opportunity to work with some of the most brilliant researchers in the country, including Angela Duckworth and Carol Dweck," said Bill Brady, Director of Leadership Programs at Haverford. "The Lab will be researching with our students as well as working with our faculty on how to enhance the teaching of character in our curriculum."
The first speaker of the conference was Donald Kamentz, Executive Director of the Character Lab. Kamentz identified nine character strengths in three categories: intellectual (mind), interpersonal (heart), and intrapersonal (will), and spoke about the relationship between character strengths and strong leadership.
"You can develop your leadership skills better in things you are already interested in, since good leaders lead with their hearts as well as their heads," Kamentz said. "It is important to see your own strengths to better recognize and bring out the best in others." (See Kamentz's full presentation on Vimeo)
Joan McConnon, Associate Executive Director of Project HOME, discussed the idea of servant leaders – those who serve the community – while author Homa Tavangar spoke about the importance of leading as a global citizen. Earnie Stewart, Sporting Director at Philadelphia Union, and Lisa Murch, Director of Art Education at Mural Arts Philadelphia, spoke about how they lead in their respective organizations and what lessons they have learned.
"What really stuck with me was the idea that leaders do not have one fixed quality that makes them great," said Maya Hairston, a senior at Baldwin who will serve as the secretary of her class and head of the Young Democrats. "Anyone can take charge, but there are many aspects to being a true leader and it's important to help everyone contribute to making something happen."
Conference workshops focused on building skills, including leading with empathy, communicating effectively, and facing adversity. James Wright, who graduated from Haverford in 1996 and currently serves as Chair of the Middle School Health and Wellness Program at Germantown Academy, led a workshop on helping students understand unseen bias, including being able to recognize internalized domination, internalized oppression, and microaggressions.
"James also helped plan the conference, and his assistance was critical. It was great to have an alum working hand-in-hand with us on this new initiative," said Brady.
For the final workshop, students were placed in groups and tasked with designing a project that will change the culture of their school. One representative from each school then presented their idea to the entire group. Many focused on building better relationships between older students and younger students, through mentorship programs or mixed-grade lunch periods and homerooms.
These representatives will serve as liaisons to the Character Lab group throughout the school year and provide updates on the implementation of their proposals. Some students also walked away from the two-day conference with individual goals and strategies for the year ahead.
"My goal in my senior year to have lunch with a different teacher every week, and I'd like to meet one person in my grade every week outside of school," said Joseph Dignazio, a senior at The Haverford School. "This conference really taught me that I have the ability to empower people and build the community that I want to be a part of."