Leadership Day 2015: Students Discover Their Leadership Potential

Over 1,200 students, teachers and presenters flooded the Bath campus of Hyde School, Friday, November 6 for the fourth Maine Youth Leadership day. The 55 schools represented at the conference were from across Maine and represented both public and independent institutions, middle through high school.

United States Senator Susan M. Collins led with an inspiring keynote address, for which there was standing room only. She explained to the room the importance of making allies with your enemies, using an example of her first political race. Her opponent for governor was none other than Angus King, who she now works side-by-side with in the U.S. Senate over twenty years later.

She also challenged the students to step up to leadership positions to erase cyber-bullying in their schools.

Before the attendees dispersed to attend the morning workshops, they separated into thirty smaller groups. The groups were named after leadership words such as “determination,” “confidence,” and “motivation.”

A series of workshops followed, led by thirty outstanding Maine business and community leaders, on topics ranging from exploring leadership in sports, accepting victories and losses, women in leadership roles, making the most of every opportunity, to business management. 88-year old Hyde Founder Joseph Gauld led a workshop entitled “The Four Principles of Becoming Leader,” in which he afterward remarked that the students were very excited to learn about and practice using their “playground voices” during his public speaking section. Olympic hopeful and world bronze medal wrestler Leigh Jaynes presented on her journey from a tough childhood through becoming a leader to promote female wrestling.

The event wrapped up with an 18 member student panel answering five questions put to them by moderator Kevin Folan of Hyde School. The questions ranged from “What inspired you today” to “What are some of the most critical issues of your generation?” Many students promised to eliminate cyber-bullying in their schools in response to U.S. Senator Collins’ speech, and others mentioned the takeaways from the workshops they had attended, such as the importance of embracing adversity, learning from setbacks, and having the confidence to be who you are. Since the morning was devoted to hearing expertise from adults, the panel provided the students an opportunity to reflect and weigh in on leadership challenges and strengths they face on a daily basis.

Director of the 1808 Media House at Bridgton Academy, Nick LeBel, said the day was a tremendous opportunity for students from his school to learn that they can in fact be leaders. He said that they wouldn’t normally think of themselves as having leadership potential, but after attending Leadership Day they returned to school full of new confidence, and equipped with the knowledge of how to use what they learned to start their personal journeys toward becoming leaders. “Leadership is not something we talk about on a daily basis at school,” Nick said, “so this day set aside specifically to focus on leadership, and what qualities and characteristics leaders need, was so important for our students. It brings the conversation back to Bridgton, where we can continue  and expand upon it.”