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Summer Leadership Summit debuts at BC

Filed in Archive by on August 17, 2016

What would you call over 200 students who gave up two days of summer fun to brainstorm ways to make the 2016-17 school year a positive one? That’s right. You’d call them leaders.

On two of hottest days so far this summer, a group of middle and high school students in grades 7-12 gathered at the high school with some of their peers and heard from community motivators on how to help strengthen a positive school environment. They are members of student leadership teams at the high school and middle school who came together in the first-ever BC Summer Student Leadership Summit.Dr. Bird holding up a hulk hand

Visit Facebook to view photo album of the event.

A keynote speech by Dr. Stephen Birchak, an author and professor from The College of Saint Rose, kicked off the student summit on Thursday, August 11. Known to many as “Dr. Bird,” Birchak highlighted the importance of character in fostering positive school experiences and shared engaging stories of his own life delivering important messages about bullying from the unique perspective of someone whose height has made him an easy target.

“How many people in here have, at one time or another, felt different, felt like you didn’t belong?” Dr. Birchak, who stands 4’9”, asked the student audience. “I am here to tell you that the thing that makes you feel different is one of best things about you. Take it from me, I know.”

Much of Dr. Bird’s address centered around what he told students are the three keys to leadership:

  • I have a choice;
  • I can think for myself; and
  • I can make a difference.

Dr. Bird used humor, some memorable props and even adopted his rap persona of “L’il Bird” in his successful bid to keep the students focused on his message.

The student leadership team is new at the high school for 2016-17 and is modeled on the Principal’s Leadership Committee (PAC) that has been in place at the middle school for the last several years.

“We wanted to identify student leaders at the high school who could be effective role models and who could encourage a positive school climate from the start,” said BCHS Interim Principal Mike Klugman, who organized the summer summit with the help of Interim Middle School Principal Dave Doemel. “To do so, we reached out to our students and asked them who they thought are the leaders among them.

“They responded and we invited those who were nominated by their peers as having strength of character and leadership skills,” he said. “We are very happy with the turnout.”Craig Forth playing Simon Says with students

Following the keynote address on Thursday morning, the middle- and high-schoolers took part in several “ice breaker” activities and leadership games. The summit continued on Friday, Aug. 12 with a “goal action planning” session, a social strategy activity, and a panel discussion on the importance and impact of student leadership which featured several Capital Region leaders in sports, education, and business.

Joining the panel were Sharon Phillip, CapCom Vice President of Strategic Marketing and Public Relations, Craig Forth, Mechanicville Jr. High School Principal and National Champion member of Syracuse Men’s Basketball team, Derrick Martin, District Executive Director for the Capital District YMCA’s, Greig Stire, SUNY Albany’s rising power forward, and Greg Gattuso, SUNY Albany’s Head Football coach and Ken Strube, retired girls’ basketball coach at Shenendehowa.

Each of the panelists held a different title, but together contributed first hand accounts of leadership in its many forms. Students presented questions to the panelists who each took a turn answering.

One question in particular seemed to stand out: “Can you share with us based upon your experience how important active listening is when engaging with people and give us an example of why?”

Craig Forth, who has worked in education and with students for several years, was intrigued and decided to engage the students in a game of “Simon Says.” Coming off the stage, Forth joined the students in the audience where he began to give directions while playing along.

Using the well-known commands of “Simon says touch your head, touch your nose,” students who got ahead of themselves were eliminated after each round. Forth had those students sit while the rest continued with the game. Once Forth got to the last remaining players, he explained his reasoning for choosing Simon Says to reinforce leadership skills.  

“People fail to engage when they listen because they often don’t pay attention to what is said,” Forth told the students. “You were copying my movements and not listening to my directions.”

With a simple game of Simon Says, Forth left the students with an important lesson in leadership.

“Leading is not just about taking action, but about listening to those you lead,” said Forth.