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Forum helps local high school students build leadership skills

Lexi Senarighi (front center) acts a bus driver while performing in a skit with her group at the Scott D. Anderson Leadership Forum at the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth Tuesday evening. The students created skits reflecting the volunteer experiences they had earlier in the day. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)1 / 4
Student participatiing in the Scott D. Anderson Leadership Forum fill the hillside near Somers Lounge on the campus of St. Scholastica Tuesday for the performance of skits about their volunteer experiences. Over 110 area high school students participated in this year's forum.(Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)2 / 4
Jack Thompson of Duluth rushes through a skit with a lawnmower during the Scott D. Anderson Leadership Forum at the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth Tuesday evening. The students were preforming skits reflecting volunteer experiences they had earlier in the day, and the students were asked to sweep a parking lot when a lawn mower kept working in the area they had already cleaned. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)3 / 4
Danielle Miller (left) of Cloquet and Ashley Timmer (right) of Carlton help Aaron O'Shaughnessy of Superior into a costume while preparing for a skit during the Scott D. Anderson Leadership Forum at the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth Tuesday evening. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)4 / 4

Courtney Beaupre explained Thursday how she crowded on a small tarp with about 10 other high school students earlier in the week. Her group's challenge: flip the tarp over without any feet touching the ground and without uttering a word.

Beaupre, a senior from Cloquet, said the activity helped her understand the importance of effective communication. After a week at the Scott D. Anderson Leadership Forum, she said being pushed out of her comfort zone has helped her grow as a communicator.

"Meeting a bunch of new people made me realize communication is key to being a leader," Beaupre said. "That was my weak point. It's the biggest thing for me that has grown."

The College of St. Scholastica hosted 110 students from 14 local high schools this week for the Scott D. Anderson Leadership Forum. The forum teaches leadership skills and encourages students to discover personal leadership qualities. School faculty invited students to attend, said Rory Johnson, a director of the Leadership Forum.

Students completed service projects, group activities and discussions about aspects of leadership — communication, civility, stewardship and respect, said Shawn Olesewski, St. Scholastica's Outdoor Pursuit coordinator, who helped run the forum this year. Many students who attended are athletes but Olesewski said he hopes to help them translate those leadership skills to the workplace, their schools and their communities.

For example, Olesewski said students received civility training that focused on language use and social media presence. Students discussed how to communicate productively, instead of in hostile ways, he said.

He said he hopes students leave the forum with skills to be role models and to advocate for change.

"The big focus that we've had is helping them realize ... being a leader is really about the group, the team. It's about everyone around you," Olesewski said.

The leadership forum has been in the area for 14 years and is paid for by the Scott D. Anderson Leadership Foundation, Johnson said. Anderson was an Air Force F-16 fighter pilot from Duluth who died in 1999 at age 33 while testing the Cirrus SR20, an airplane innovative in aircraft safety and production. He was also an award-winning author of three books. Johnson said the foundation hopes to build youth leaders in the community.

Evan Anderson, a junior at Duluth East, attended the forum this week and is Scott's son. Anderson said the week's activities allowed him to gain confidence as a leader and sharpen his problem-solving skills.

"It was a good way to relive my dad's legacy," he said.

Anderson said he looks forward to bringing his new leadership skills to his high school football and baseball teams. He said he hopes to strengthen relationships within his team by adapting an activity they did during the week called affirmations.

Jamie Jazdzewski, a Leadership Forum director, said the affirmations activity is powerful for students. During a small-group session, one student sits in the middle of the group while everyone tells them something positive they learned about that person during the week.

"We don't do that enough," Jazdzewski said. "Everybody needs to be validated sometimes."

Amanda Robbins, a senior from Hermantown, said the affirmation activity helped her realize one of her leadership qualities is helping people feel comfortable in group settings. She said during affirmations, many of her group members commented on her positive and outgoing personality. When everyone on the first day was shy, Robbins said she felt she helped break the ice.

Robbins said the leadership forum allowed her and her peers to better understand themselves.

"We figured out our strengths and attributes as leaders," Robbins said.

Johnson said he wishes the weeklong leadership training could be available for all high school students. He said he hopes the 110 students take what they learned back to their individual communities.

"If they can get more people on board with them, what a great school that would be," Johnson said. "What a great community that would be."

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