Upperclassman from Manley Career Academy traveled many miles last month to learn how to become stronger student leaders.
These 16 students traveled to Peoria, Illinois for the annual IHSA Student Leadership Conference – a chance for students from throughout the state to learn the fundamentals of leadership, sportsmanship, teamwork and character. They were the only students to represent CPS at this year’s conference.
“It was a good way for our student leadership team to kick off the year,” said Warren Morgan, II, principal at Manley. “It gave them a chance to get some formalized training while starting to think about what they want to accomplish in the coming months.”
The participating students are members of Manley’s Principal Advisory Council – a student panel that meets monthly with Principal Morgan to discuss what issues have arisen at school and how to make things better.
“It’s a way of making sure that I have the student perspective on things,” said Principal Morgan, who created the system three years ago. “I speak regularly with our teachers, and of course there is the LSC and parent voice, but until this panel, there was no formalized way for me to hear from the students.”
In its first year, the Principal Advisory Council pushed for a uniform requirement at Manley.
“Students told me that it would save their parents money, and that uniforms would mean less stigmas around who wore what clothes,” said Principal Morgan. “The idea was widely supported by the school community, so we made it happen.”
The Principal Advisory Council was also responsible for the creation of student lounges in the school cafeteria, and was introduced on the floor of the Illinois Senate when they traveled to Springfield to lobby legislators on such critical issues as neighborhood violence.
“They didn’t want to change the world,” said Principal Morgan. “They just wanted to have their voices heard. And in that, they succeeded.”
The students’ enthusiasm made Principal Morgan eager to develop their skills, which is why he convinced them to attend the IHSA’s Student Leadership Conference this fall. There, the students met over 300 like-minded youths and learned what it takes to be an effective school leader.
“It was great to meet different kinds of people and learn the main points of how to become a better leader,” said Manley senior Jarvis Wilson. “We talked about sportsmanship and communication, and other skills that are part of what a good leader should be.”
In their various breakout sessions, students worked together on leadership projects and discussed how they can positively contribute to their school communities. Several took to heart the notion that strong leaders always maintain positive attitudes, which was a recurring theme throughout the conference.
“We learned an acronym for the word HAPPY,” said junior Breana Scurlock. “Hope…Attitude…Positive…People…You. Remembering this will help us do better in the roles we play in our schools. It was an inspiration for me.”
The conference opened and close with motivational speeches, which seemed to have a lasting effect on the Manley students.
“We learned so many lessons in such a little amount of time,” said Manley senior Kantrell Nicholson. “These are things I think will make me a better role model for underclassmen and lessons I will remember for the rest of my life.”
Building on what they learned at the conference, Manley’s Principal Advisory Council hopes to embark on numerous endeavors this year, including the creation of both a mentoring program for underclassman and a school-wide peer mediation program.
“Being a leader means being yourself,” said Manley junior Shaunice James. “Stay happy, stay positive, and keep moving forward. Attending this conference will help me be a better person and continue to do and strive for the best. And it will hopefully influence other students to become leaders too.”