For high school students Savannah and Garrett Fortney from Lincoln, Union College’s first Leadership Experience proved to be an excellent training ground to learn how to be a better leader.
The siblings from College View Academy were part of a team that won the leadership simulation and will each receive a $1,000 scholarship to Union College.
Fourteen teams from six private high schools across the Midwest attended the event September 5-8—designed by Union leadership students to help the high schoolers improve their leadership skills through training and practice.
“We listened to each other’s ideas and helped each other,” said Savannah, her school’s Student Association secretary. “That’s what helped us win—our communication.”
During the competition on Friday, teams participated in a simulation that required members to assume specific civic leadership roles and respond as a group to a disaster situation—in this case a tornado. The teams were judged on how they creatively solved each challenge and worked together.
“Diego Perez was our mayor, but he didn’t speak more than anyone else,” said Savannah. “There were some in our group that don’t normally give a lot of input. He directly asked for their opinions and their ideas were really good.”
Savannah and Garrett’s fellow team members, Emma Trumble, Jada Brewer, Daniel Klein III, Matthan Sigowa and Perez also received a $1,000 scholarship from Union College. The second place team from Mile High Academy in Denver, Colorado, received $500 scholarships, and the third place team from Sunnydale Adventist Academy in Centralia, Missouri, received $250.
“We believe the Leadership Experience is a great way for high school student government leaders to test and build their leadership skills,” said Dr. Linda Becker, director of Union’s leadership program. “The competition is designed to build teamwork and help the student learn to solve problems in creative ways.”
Nebraska District 29 Senator Kate Bolz gave a keynote speech for a Thursday night banquet, which followed a day of training—including participating in Project Impact with Union students and employees who take the day off from classes to serve at more than 60 community organizations around Lincoln.
“The dinner was fun,” said Garrett, who serves as freshman class secretary. “A community leader sat at each table and shared their experiences with us.”
The event helped teach Garrett the importance of community. “Everyone plays a part in what we do every day,” he said. “I learned it’s important to rely on other people—they have your back—and communicate well.”
“I would do this for a job, it was so much fun,” said Savannah, who served as the city emergency manager during the simulation. “I loved working with our group and we put a lot of effort into it. It was rewarding to win first place.”
Designed by students in Union College’s leadership minor and international rescue and relief programs, the leadership competition is modeled after Washburn University’s Leadership Challenge—an event where Union College took first place in April 2018.
The Union College leadership program allows students to earn a leadership minor with almost any major. Students involved in this program participate in peer mentoring, leadership classes and weekly meetings to develop leadership skills.
“We want to make sure all students have a chance to exercise their abilities and to connect and learn from other leaders before they graduate,” said Becker. “This program provides an opportunity for students to grow themselves and connect to internships and mentors to better their understanding of what it means to be a leader.”
The event was made possible thanks to generous sponsorships from Union Bank & Trust, State Farm Insurance and Premier Catering. Learn more about Union’s leadership program at www.ucollege.edu/leadership
You can also see photos in Union’s Facebook Leadership Experience album.
By Ryan teller