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The City Journals

Juan Diego Catholic High Students Learn Leadership Skills

Aug 22, 2016 12:47PM ● By Julie Slama

About 100 Juan Diego Catholic High students learned leadership skills at the first ever student leadership retreat. — Juan Diego Catholic High School

By Julie Slama | [email protected]
Students at Juan Diego Catholic High School recently spent two days participating in activities designed to bring out their strengths as leaders this school year as leaders in campus organizations.
“The students did six activities designed to drive home different ways they can learn and show up as leaders here at the school and in our community,” Dave Brunetti, Juan Diego Catholic High School director of campus life, said. “We want our students to be compassionate, respectful leaders. People will remember in 10 years that someone is a pleasure to work with or nice or patient or kind, not that they helped set up a certain activity a certain way. These kids are focused on these qualities and want to be challenged, accept responsibilities and be prepared for what lies ahead for them.”
The 110 student leaders, who attended Juan Diego’s first ever student leader retreat at the National Ability Center in Park City, represented the school’s peer ministry, student ambassadors, student body officers, class officers and class senate for sophomores through seniors. Freshman leaders will be determined this fall.
Brunetti led the “being versus doing” session with the message, “We get caught up in getting a lot of things done and feel successful that way. We need to look at how we show up. Are we kind, gentle, observant?” he said.
In an equestrian session, students were asked to lead the horses around the corral without touching them.
“It’s a matter of learning to trust your instincts and if you lead, the horses will follow. All our activities are designed to be mirrored in everyday life. So basically, students learn how we handle our emotions and fears will be easier with a horse than say, to speak in front of the school. But they learned they can do that,” he said.
In another session, students read and discussed “Who Moved My Cheese?” Brunetti said the discussion focused on dealing with change and their responsibilities to navigate through it.
Students learned the difference between “seeing versus hearing others” and showing value and respect toward other people and their opinions in one session, Brunetti said.
“Often we’re walking in the hall, we don’t see other people around us. We don’t see if they’re in pain or having a bad day. We don’t have a sense around us. We just walk with our heads down, texting. This session made students aware they need to see others, their differences, but still be able to have dialog with them,” he said.
Students also had a low- and high-ropes course that were designed as teambuilding opportunities.
“They couldn’t complete the low-ropes course unless they worked together,” he said.
For sophomore Katie O’Brien, who is in her second year in the senate, this was the most challenging session.
“We rock-climbed blindfolded to a platform so we had to listen to our teammates direct us,” she said, adding that they also walked across a high rope blindfolded. “We had to be able to trust them and listen to what they’re saying. So instead of racing ahead to be first, we learned we needed to work together as a team. Teamwork is a very big part of student life.”
Throughout the two days, Katie and others kept journals.
“I wrote, ‘We are a force, grounded in courage, compassion and connection.’ I wrote what I learned and what I need to focus on. The retreat really helped us bond as a group so we aren’t afraid to ask for help and we’re given the skills to know how to get new things done. We also talked about what we, as the senate, want to accomplish as far as qualities this year. Better communication is a big thing, so we’re setting up a GroupMe chat so everyone will be aware of what’s going on,” she said.
Junior Lucas Prokopis, who is a student ambassador, said he hopes to use what he learned to involve more students on campus.
“Sometimes, we need to approach the students so they’re just not going from class to class on cruise control and not having a chance to being exposed to being involved in activities. We need to interact with everyone, to meet people who we haven’t met before and to get them more involved. I’m looking forward to using what I learned so nobody is left out,” he said.
The last activity was Brunetti inviting students to sing “The Impossible Dream” from “The Man of La Mancha” in the front of the room. By the end of the retreat, each student had sung the song in front of their peers.
“It was meant to get out of comfort zones and be vulnerable, but it also bonded us together and became a real special moment,” Katie said.
Lucas also said it was meant to teach them to try new things.
“If we don’t learn how to step out of our comfort zone, then we’re missing a part of being a leader,” he said.
Brunetti said students needed to overcome their fears of worrying about what they looked like or sounded like in front of others.
“It just moves people to tears since some of them are so terrified, but when they get the confidence and belief, they put 110 percent into it — it’s very powerful,” he said.