StandUp Leadership event gives area high schoolers opportunities

Geneseo hosted over 100 high school students for leadership workshops, speeches and networking for StandUp Leadership, a day dedicated to extending leadership events from the Geneseo campus to surrounding communities. The daylong event took place in the MacVittie College Union Ballroom on Friday Dec. 4. The event was led by Geneseo Opportunities for Leadership Development mentor junior Brandon Gaylord, who had the idea to offer leadership programs to local high school students who could benefit from the guidance and empowerment.

After reaching out to local schools, Gaylord secured seven districts to participate in the daylong event: Geneseo, York, Dansville, Wayland-Cohocton, Caledonia-Mumford and Keshequa. Each school could nominate approximately 20 students to participate in the leadership event.

School counselors, principals and administrators could nominate students to attend this event, but Gaylord wanted the participants not to be the “typical” student usually nominated for these types of events.

“We wanted them to identify students who had leadership potential, but did not get many leadership opportunities,” Gaylord said.

Gaylord also stressed the role of accessibility in planning the event. Other leadership programs exist for high school students, but are often costly, multiple days long or require the family to pay for travel, housing or program fees.

“There are other leadership programs that target secondary schooling, but they try to reach the students who can pay thousands of dollars or they can fly to Stanford [University] or Harvard [University] or wherever for weeks,” Gaylord said. “There isn’t anything that says, ‘We’re going to offer a free program. We’re going to reach those who don’t normally get opportunities and we’re going to keep it local.’”

The event consisted of GOLD workshops run by faculty and staff from various departments of the school. The team-building workshop was mandatory; afterward, students could go to two others of their choice.

These session options included a representative from the Lauderdale Center for Student Health & Counseling speaking about stress management, a communication professor talking about public speaking and an active listening workshop done through the Career Center.

Some workshops—such as the required team building one—were adapted from Geneseo GOLD Workshops, but others were specific to the event, such as “Intro to Being Environmentally Conscious” and “Being Happy and Successful at the Same Time.”

The event also involved 20 local businesses such as Wegmans, Noyes Health, Energy Enterprises and FTT Manufacturing, which spoke to and networked with students during the lunch session. They spoke to students about what they look for in their employees and applications, and also told them about more direct job opportunities they could have.

Nicholas Palumbo ’14 is assisting Gaylord in the quantitative assessment of the program’s success. Palumbo created an official proposal and submitted it to the University of Rochester’s institutional review board, which approved of the research.

Palumbo then created a pre and post-conference survey for participating students to fill out regarding their self-confidence and leadership. He currently is processing the data that has been gathered.

The data will assist in Gaylord’s efforts to make the StandUp event annual and to include more schools in future years. According to Associate Dean of Leadership and Service Tom Matthews, Provost Carol Long also expressed interest in making it annual,

This year’s StandUp Leadership Conference was funded by an Ambassadorship grant through the Center for Inquiry, Discovery and Development. Matthews and Gaylord are currently applying for grants to fund future events and are accepting donations. Gaylord noted that he hopes to expand the event to more college campuses in the future and increase the number of high school students participating by hundreds.

“We’re reaching out and trying to find other schools that would be interested in hosting something like this,” Gaylord said. “You can go to a school in Rochester like [Monroe Community College] and you can host 500 students, even twice a year.”