The motto of the Alameda Community Learning Center (ACLC) is “Educating the Leaders of Tomorrow,” but high school junior, Winnie Zhou, realized that not all learners at the school know how or have the opportunity to be a leader.
After attending a statewide “Explore/Develop/Grow/Empower” (EDGE) leadership seminar, Zhou had to commit to a follow-up action plan. She proposed creating her own school-wide Leadership Conference and recruited classmates Sophia Moore, Skylar Herrera Ross and Marisa Wood to help make it happen.
“Though our school’s model is to develop leaders, many learners feel that they don’t have leadership skills or a strong voice in the community because they are not in our Leadership class,” said Zhou. “I wanted to create an event that would expose everyone to different ways of thinking about leadership and being a leader,” Zhou said.
The day-long event held on Friday, February 20, was a first in ACLC’s 20-year history, and included interactive workshops, information sessions with local speakers, and an opening keynote presentation from Scott Backovich, a well-known youth motivational speaker.
In addition to entertaining the crowd with illustrative anecdotes, Backovich drove home the point that being a leader doesn’t necessarily mean being in the spotlight. Instead, it can be a quiet gesture of extending a helping hand or showing kindness, compassion or respect to a fellow student. He challenged every attendee to become a catalyst to make the world better, saying: “I’m not asking you to change your life, I’m asking you to change someone else’s.”
Other workshop offerings explored how to become a leader, leadership qualities and personality traits, inspiring examples of accidental or unexpected leaders, and team-building exercises. These sessions were led by local business, community and thought leaders, a few of whom were also ACLC alumni, facilitators (teachers) and Board members. Students ended the day in small group sessions called “Community Connections” where they could share what they had learned, provide feedback on various sessions, contribute ideas on how to improve their school community and find ways to get involved.
“This conference was an opportunity for learners who might be intimidated by the idea of leadership to develop skills and boost their confidence to become involved and make a difference,” said Zhou. “It’s a chance for them to see all kinds of leaders in action and think maybe they can do that, too,” Zhou said.
ACLC is a tuition-free public charter middle and high school located at 1900 Third Street, Alameda, CA.