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NFHS Taking Student Leadership to New Levels

By Jason Haddix on July 18, 2017 hst Print

Thirteen years ago the NFHS planted a seed by hosting its first student leadership conference to help develop high school students into leaders at school, on the field and in life. In 2015, five years after the last conference was held, the NFHS will take the next step in leadership building.

State associations have been asked to identify a select group of students who are involved in athletics or performing arts to be part of the inaugural NFHS National Student Leadership Summit to be held July 20-22, 2015, at the Hyatt Regency in Indianapolis, Indiana.

The NFHS goal is to have 100 students, who will be split into groups of 25 and rotate through four topical discussions: communication, relationship building, social media usage and perspective.
The students will also participate in a community service project with the Indiana Special Olympics. The specific details have not been finalized, but the event will be created specifically for the Leadership Summit attendees.

“Our member schools are a part of the community, and what better way to demonstrate leadership than being active in community service projects,” said Elliot Hopkins, NFHS director of sports and educational services. “The best way to turn a vacant lot into a playground is have students help with adults providing resources. It benefits all involved – students, adults and the young people who get to enjoy the finished product.”

It is expected that 20-30 adults will be at the event and the planning committee has established a tract for them as well. The adults, who are running leadership conferences in their home states, will receive information during panel discussions about creating student leadership advisory committees, how to develop a leadership conference and how to get involved in the community.
“These are life skills the students will be learning,” Hopkins said. “Athletics and performing arts are typically just a snapshot of the students’ lives. We are going to enhance skills so they can go back and make a difference in their respective communities.”

In an effort to reach as many people as possible, the Summit will also be broadcast on the NFHS Network. This will allow for more students to benefit without interrupting the intimate setting Hopkins believes is the best learning environment for the select group of students.

Nearly each aspect of the Summit is a departure from what the NFHS Leadership Conference was in the past. Then, there were several hundred students being introduced to basic leadership topics with college facilitators leading the lectures.

“I equate it like going to college,” Hopkins said. “When you initially go to college, you take 100 level classes with 100-200 students in the lecture hall – that is what we did from 2001 to 2010. It was about introducing leadership terms to students.”

Many of the state associations took the NFHS Leadership Conference model and adapted it to suit the needs of their membership and have essentially assumed the role of providing students the basics of leadership.

“Our Board still felt a need to remain active in leadership development,” Hopkins said. “The NFHS membership wants an avenue for students to get in ‘400’ level classes.”

While no concrete plans are in place for events beyond 2015, Hopkins believes the goal of the NFHS Board is to continue hosting the Summit with relevant discussion topics about what is happening in society surrounding high school students.

“The goal is to take students who have been exposed to leadership training and hone those skills,” Hopkins said. “Then they can take their more developed skills back to their school and communities to train their peers in an effort to make the students better, the school better, the state better and ultimately making our country better.”