On March 15, 100 underclassmen from Mt. Hebron, led by seniors, teachers, Dr. Miller, and Howard County Central Office representatives, went to the Howard County Conservancy to hold a leadership conference. The purpose of the conference was for the seniors and teachers to instill what leadership should look like for the near future at Mt. Hebron.
Dr. Miller set up the leadership conference alongside members of the central office. She wanted the leadership conference to be a safe place where kids could freely talk about how to improve Mt. Hebron.
“So it was two years of trying to get it together. We want kids- there are 1640 kids in the building- and we want students to feel empowered for the climate and culture they want at Hebron. The only way to do that would be through student leadership like a general assembly or branch or committees branched off of SGA. Kids have lots of ideas so we want to capitalize on that.
In order to develop an open environment, students were instructed to address adults by their first name. They were also encouraged to break away from reputational boundaries, to be engaged in discussions, and to converse with people that they would not normally talk to.
Sophomore Anwesha Gorantla commented, “Initially, I was shocked [after being instructed to call teachers by their first name,] and it felt odd every time I did it, but after awhile I began to feel like I was a part of a more professional environment where I held more authority.”
Junior Mackenzie Strozyk who is a current member of SGA, a field hockey and lacrosse player, and is involved in other clubs at Mt. Hebron, went on the leadership conference to learn more about what she could do to better improve the school’s community for everyone.
Strozyk said, “I think we made some really great strides through communication. I thought it was interesting that different varieties of students from all different backgrounds and different perspectives were all able to chime in to figure out how to communicate better through SGA, through clubs, and through school in general. I think this will really allow us to build a greater community.”
To commence the conference, students were instructed to participate in various activities, including dancing, talking, and sharing personal experiences to allow for everyone to meet and greet one another. Then, the students were asked to define leadership as they have seen it at Mt. Hebron and how they hope to see it improve.
Shannon Keeney, from the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Division of Human Resources and Professional Development of the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) Central Office said, “What I love about the Mt. Hebron staff, students, and community is the motivation, the passion, the dedication, and the joy that I am starting to hear in the hallways. I have been hearing a lot of students asking each other, ‘How are you?’ I feel like while walking through your building, this positivity has been continuing to grow practically each day.”
Throughout the conference, the students were split into different groups to discuss how they could be leaders every day, even without a title like being on SGA. Students also discussed what morals were most important to them and to Mt. Hebron’s community, and how they could integrate those morals better in the community.
At the end of the conference, students were once again split into new groups where they talked about what ideas they had to improve Mt. Hebron leadership for the future and what they could add in the upcoming years to better improve communication and participation from the student body and staff members.
The Leadership Development Coordinator of the HCPSS Central Office, Charlene Allen said, “The students here all being able to take risks and really challenge each other on ideas in order to help Mt. Hebron grow is a good sign for me and has led to what I believe to be a successful conference.”
Some of the ideas that were generated include a student improvement committee in which students who are not members of SGA would coordinate with SGA as well as Dr. Miller to participate more in projects to make Mt. Hebron a better place for everyone. Another concept to improve communication between SGA and the rest of the student body was to have weekly or monthly announcements from SGA to share some of the behind-the-scenes projects and upcoming events with the students to make the information more accessible for all.
Senior host Molly Peterson was very enthusiastic about the results of the meeting.
“Our school has a very strong foundation for leadership. There are many natural leaders at out school which is awesome. I think an area we need to improve is making sure our ideas are followed through. There were so many good ideas talked about today, and I want to make sure they happen.”