State Summits offer National Honor Society (NHS) and National Junior Honor Society (NJHS) members hands-on experiential leadership development. They are designed to unlock the potential of participating students by providing a shared space to learn, grow, and explore ideas together. We asked students to provide their own report of the Arizona State Summit, which took place on September 12, 2019. This is the third in a series of three firsthand blog post accounts. The first two accounts can be found here and here.

“What inspires you? What drives you to succeed?” asked Keesha L. Coleman, a presenter and emcee at the Arizona State Summit. Answering questions such as these is a powerful way to start the morning, and I heard answers that covered everything from family, to music, to academics, to aiding others. The Arizona State Summit was full of learning moments such as these. I now have a deeper understanding of what it means to be a leader as well as ways to incorporate my dreams back into my NHS chapter and act on them. I also recognize more clearly how we’re all connected by our successes and failures, and how building off of these experiences can help improve our success as a chapter. As I responded to these early morning questions, I found myself smiling, excited to do more activities like this throughout the day.

In my first workshop, titled “Visionary,” we were asked, “What’s one aspect of the world that you would like to change overnight?” The presenters challenged us to determine if our dreams were impossible, improbable, or inevitable in the next five years, 10 years, or our lifetimes. Ending inequality on the basis of anything such as race, gender, and religion was the dream that came to my mind. While I know that, unfortunately, this dream will not become a reality anytime soon, I have hope that equality will improve immensely within my lifetime. Encouraged to write action steps to help make our dreams a reality, I thought of volunteering as a chapter at organizations that support people who encounter prejudice—such as at Miracle League, a baseball league for kids with disabilities. The “Visionary” workshop incorporated both physical, mental, and group activities that allowed the attendees to get to know each other a little better while thinking about our dreams.

In Ms. Coleman’s workshop, we explored leadership; what it means to be a leader, how we students embody some of the values of leaders, and action steps we can take to express these qualities even more. We pooled our ideas about what it means to be a leader at the center of each table, creating seas of positivity and initiative. Resiliency, accountability, having a desire to make change, being a good listener, and being able to “lift people up” were five qualities and values of leaders that stood out to me. I am immeasurably passionate about making a difference, but I need to start planning ways to act on this bottled-up passion. This workshop highlighted what leadership skills we can bring to our NHS chapters to make them as positive an environment as possible—an environment where the group is bettered.

Continuing our informative courses, we sat, connected by a web of words, during a workshop about empathy and compassion. We picked a word that represented a time we felt successful, then tossed a ball of yarn around our circle, connecting to each other with our words of success. We learned that we can bridge the disconnections between one other by recognizing what we do well, and what we could improve upon. In the workshop “Results May Vary,” we did a free write about failure. This workshop allowed me to think of failure, or at least revision, as part of every process. Failure can be a “first attempt in learning,” but it can also look like “stagnant success” where nothing is a challenge and one is successful over and over. I was surprised by the diversity of ways people looked at failure and grateful for the new perspective.

We continued the theme of failure and success in the “Up in the Air” workshop. We attempted to keep balloons in the air within small groups, while being constricted by a set of rigorous rules. By the end of the exercise, we understood that sometimes it’s important to sacrifice one’s own success for the success of the group. I’ve definitely experienced situations where I wanted one of my ideas to be heard, but another option is optimal for the group. I understand now the success a group can achieve when the better option is picked; therefore, I’m much more willing to let my idea go.

The Arizona NHS State Summit was a wonderful day of personal and group growth. I’m bringing back to my chapter a deeper understanding of the topics that I have on my “tool belt” of leadership. With this knowledge, I can help my chapter have more productive, connected meetings; bring forth ideas of how to reach out into the community more frequently; and contribute my broadened view of how other NHS chapters incorporate the NHS tenets into their work. I’m excited to use what I learned about leadership, connection, and success in the coming months!

Drew Kolber is a student at The Gary K. Herberger Young Scholars Academy.

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