Vision Quest

Leadership Experience Shapes Students Outlook on Life

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Vision Quest

by Victoria Kidd

In a commanding call to order, national LeaderShape facilitator Kristin Skarie raises her voice above the buzz of Student voices In the large-group meeting space at Ladore Retreat and Conference Center. “Leader Shape,” She calls, and the group instinctively comes to attention with a responsive “Hey.” Although many students are drowsy from staying up until 3 a.m. talking about their experiences from the day before, the excitement in the room is tangible, electrifying the air as they take their seats.


AFTER A LITTLE ribbing about sleep deprivation (breakfast was served at 7:45 a.m. to the exhausted students), national facilitator Jackie Thomas calls the group’s attention to a theater-sized video screen at the front of the room.

Accompanied by a haunting tribal score by Oscar-winning composer Hans Zimmer, the words “The Power of One” appear in simple white type on a black background. What follows is a series of empowering messages coupled with arresting video clips that illustrate how everyone has the power to change the world.

"Not so long ago, a little girl in Alabama wanted to go to the same school as everyone else.” The words flash on the screen, evaporating into a grainy black and- white image of a young African American girl entering a school building, flanked by two white men in suits.

“And a gentle man from India wanted to raise consciousness without raising his voice.” A clip of Gandhi appears, showing him raising an index finger to his lips.

“In East Germany, a man wanted to break free.” Cut away to a man climbing through the barbed wire that once entangled the Berlin Wall.

“And a woman traveled the world giving hope to those who had none.” Fade to Mother Theresa greeting people in an Indian hospital.

The video comes to a climactic conclusion with a rapid succession of pictures and a simple statement: “The power of one is the power to do something. Anything.”

The room is silent. “What did you think?” Thomas finally asks.

“I literally got chills,” one Susquehanna student says. “They were just people like us and they did something. They had a vision and acted on it.”

“The world could be like this if only we speak up,” another student adds.

It’s a moment of clarity, a moment in which students realize that their dreams are more than lofty fits of fancy. They are the tangible results of the executable plans they develop and dedicate themselves to fulfilling.

“The single most important thing I took away from LeaderShape was the fact that anything is attainable,” says Anna Wendel ’11. “I’ve always been a dreamer, so forming a vision [for tomorrow] wasn’t a challenge, but what used to be challenging for me was reaching my ultimate goals. LeaderShape taught me that small steps can eventually turn into big steps.”

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