Grant Schools Host Student Leadership Symposium
Photos and story by Mike Gesler
If you open up the Grant Public Schools webpage, one of the first things you see is the motto, “Developing Learners and Leaders.” Grant certainly took that motto to heart Wednesday morning by hosting the Newaygo County Student Leadership Symposium. The symposium was open to students in grades seven through twelve that were identified as leaders within their particular subgroups. In attendance were team captains, student council members, band chairs, National Honor Society members, etc.; students that have the ability to affect the lives of other students, their school, and their community. School districts from around the county and local area were invited to participate. Participating school districts included Grant, Newaygo, White Cloud, Hesperia, Creative Technologies Academy (Cedar Springs), and Comstock Park. Big Rapids had planned on attending but couldn’t due to school
Brett Zuver, Superintendent of Grant Public Schools, shared that the symposium was born out of what he saw as a necessity. He shared that today’s students have been through a lot of stress dealing with and navigating the ever changing scene of COVID over the last two years. But that stress was amped up with the tragedy at Oxford, and threats of violence that followed in some of our local school districts just before going into Winter Break. “Students have been feeling the toll of COVID enough and all their life changes, but then to throw the violence piece and the perceived threats on top of it, we had to do something different. Instead of it always coming from teachers, or principals, or superintendents, we wanted to have students here today, together from multiple school districts grades seven through twelve, to learn how to lift each other up, and be leaders, and to control what they can control, and make their school building a better place, and then ultimately their community, and then ultimately their county.”
“Today meant that I felt understood, and gave me a lot of advice,” stated Raven Wirts, a senior at Grant. “I felt like I could see a difference in my community being made.”
Zuver, himself a former NCAA head basketball coach and regional presenter on Culture and Leadership, reached out to friends who are also national presenters, successful collegiate coaches, and have worked with leadership and culture building across the country and world. Included in the panel of volunteer presenters was Theresa Beeckman, a nationally known Culture and Leadership expert and former NCAA head coach, who spoke on being thermometers or thermostats. Kendra Faustin, a former NCAA Division I and II head coach, leadership expert, and now the current AD for Comstock Park School District, who spoke on having the power and responsibility to make a difference. And Vern Hazard, a nationally recognized leadership expert with the Flippen Group who develops and works with educators, professional athletic teams, and Fortune 500 CEOs to improve leadership skills, who spoke about adjusting your perceived circumstances to help lift others up and finish strong.
The symposium certainly had not only the students engaged and interacting with one another, but also the school staff that were in attendance as well. Participants shared their goals and values with one another. They discussed who they believed were great leaders, and what made those leaders great. They looked at events and outcomes, and how their reactions can determine whether the outcome has a positive or negative impact on themselves and others. They were told to understand that everyone has a story, and it’s up to each person to control the narrative of their own story; to seize the day and get on living. Participants even let their hair down and got a little silly following the moves of an onscreen dance video.
Cyanne Schuitema, a junior at Grant, shared, “I think it’s important to me that I was able to get chosen for this opportunity. It’s been really fun. I like that they’re encouraging us to not be shy, and get out of our comfort zone. It’s been cool to not be nervous around here where I can be sometimes. Getting out of my comfort zone and having fun with my friends while learning about something interesting.” “As a leader, I’m in charge of my group. Okay, I’m the basketball captain. I got twelve people I’m working with. What about the other five hundred students in our school? What are we doing to capture them and lift them up, and make them feel valued? That’s what this is for,” concluded Zuver.