Vision Quest

Leadership Experience Shapes Students Outlook on Life

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LeaderShape participants wrote letters of encouragement to one another every day and placed them in each other’s makeshift mailboxes.Jenna Fredericks ’06, assistant director of residence life for student conduct and one of the facilitators for family clusters, or small groups, says LeaderShape’s curriculum “truly acknowledges the ebb and flow of students’ budding confidence, combined with their enthusiasm for making their world a better place.”

From Day 1, Fredericks says, students were encouraged to think big. “Within three days, students were saying things such as, ‘My vision is a cancer-free world,’ and ‘My vision is that every child in the world has access to education.’ And not one person looked at these students and said, ‘That’s impossible,’ or ‘Why don’t you aim for something smaller?’ The expectation to be positive, supportive and to believe anything is possible was set from the first minute they arrived, and our students soaked it right up.”

Deborah Stieffel, vice president for enrollment management and family cluster facilitator, says she watched students’ enthusiasm grow by the day as they learned to embrace their dreams. “The students saw that they have achievable visions. They’ve been told they can’t do it, but they can.” Repeating a LeaderShape mantra, she adds, “They just need to have a ‘healthy disregard for the impossible’ and go for it.”

In addition to teaching students that anything is possible, LeaderShape showed them that anyone can be a leader. “I always thought that in order to be a good leader, you had to have a certain personality type,” says Bradley. “But coming to LeaderShape I learned that this isn’t the case. Leaders come in all shapes and sizes. No one way is correct.”

Gianna Micozzi ’13, a science major from Denver, Pa., says the atmosphere of the retreat made such transformations possible. “Everyone felt so secure to open up and share with one another, and it was very rewarding to everyone involved.”

Students spent time each day sharing their innermost thoughts and showing their support to one another. After lunch, they wrote each other notes of encouragement that they’d leave in each other’s mailboxes, fashioned out of brown paper bags and decorated to match their individual personalities.

Bradley says the LeaderShape experience gave students the courage and support they need to accomplish their visions of a better tomorrow. They’ve begun by implementing individual action plans, which they hold each other accountable for achieving in a set period of time. In essence, the students are taking the small steps that, if pursued methodically, will lead to a world of possibilities, and they’re doing it with the support system they developed at LeaderShape. 

Victoria Kidd is assistant director of advancement communications and editor of Susquehanna Currents.

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