By THOMAS MANGLONA II
Student leaders from Guam’s private and public schools gathered at St. John’s School Gymnasium last Saturday for the first islandwide student leadership conference. Four Saipan Youth Congress senators were among the 100 students who participated in the conference held in the collaboration with the 29th Guam Youth Congress and St. John’s student council.
Marielle Kapileo from Saipan Southern High School, Maria Dizon from Marianas High School, Kanata Omori from Marianas Baptist Academy, and Thomas Manglona II from Mount Carmel School were invited by St. John’s student council to represent the CNMI. Youth Congress clerk Christine F. Castro accompanied the students on the trip.
Island leaders participated in the conference to share their personal stories about responsible leadership.
Patricia Bennett, headmaster of St. John’s School, welcomed everyone to the conference.
“All of you were elected for a student leadership position, and at the time you may have enjoyed the pride, honor, and glory. Now that the school year has started, you are starting to see the reality of the responsibility. You are starting to get the point that true leadership isn’t so much about power as it is about hard work for other people,” Bennett said. “I know that I am looking at the future leaders of Guam and the CNMI.”
Standing in for Guam Gov. Eddie B. Calvo was Lt. Gov. Raymond S. Tenorio, who encouraged the students to dream, be determined, and persevere.
“Dare to dream,” said Tenorio. “It’s not hard to dream; what is hard to do is to achieve. It takes hard work, ownership, and responsibility for your success and failures. Build yourself strong and make yourself intelligent. The most important and final thing is to take your passion with you in everything you do.”
St. John’s student council president Eliana Yu told Saipan Tribune that the student government and faculty at her school put together the conference in just three weeks.
“We wanted to have a diverse set of student leaders for our very first leadership conference. So we invited the CNMI Youth Congress senators to participate in the training and share their experience as leaders and learn new skills as well,” Yu said. “We hope that these leaders connect with each other, learn from our guest speakers, and take back the information and skills to better represent their constituents.”
The student leaders were divided into five groups and placed in rooms with fellow students whom they’ve never met before.
The first session of the day had students working on leadership and communication skills. Student facilitators did a variety of speech and communication energizers and prompted the students to go beyond their comfort zones to recognize their strengths and weaknesses as leaders.
Kanata Omori described the conference as “an overall good experience.”
“I learned how to approach people without seeming too shy or too aggressive. The main theme of the entire conference was to allow us to see the potential within ourselves, and use that potential to serve others effectively,” Omori said.
Other sessions later in the day gave students tools and strategies for leading effective meetings and tips on protocol and professional etiquette.
Youth Congress Speaker Marielle Kapileo said the conference made her realize that there is more to being a leader than just guiding others.
“It takes confidence, intelligence and determination to be a good leader,” she said.
“I’ve attended several conferences, but this one was truly a great experience. It sharpened my leadership skills,” said Youth Congress floor leader Maria Dizon.
Dizon said she connected well with the other leaders at the conference. “I was surrounded by student leaders from different schools and organization and I realized that we all had something in common—we all simply want to make a difference in our community.”