On the morning of Friday, April 17, 60 anxious 8th graders congregated in the cafeteria of Valparaiso High School. The VHS Student Council hosted its annual 8th Grade Leadership Conference. However, by the end of the day, these nerves that the students were experiencing turned into excitement.
VHS Student Council Advisor Lauren Covington said, “We have a large group of rising freshmen coming to VHS next year, and we hope to get them involved in student council. All of these kids have been recognized for their leadership abilities, and we hope to provide them with a positive outlet when they get to the high school.”
30 students from Benjamin Franklin Middle School and 30 from Thomas Jefferson Middle School were chosen to attend the conference. These students were selected by their teachers because of their strong leadership skills. Whether it’s through athletics or academics, these students manage to make a positive impact in their respective schools.
Even VHS Principal Dr. Reid Amones took time out of his busy schedule to welcome the middle school students.
“We’re thrilled to have such a great and diverse group of students joining us next year. I’ve heard about how great the incoming class is. VHS offers activities for everyone, so I’m looking forward to seeing them get involved,” Amones said.
J.J. Peller, former Valparaiso High School student and current Merrill Lynch Financial Advisor, was the guest speaker and talked to the students about the importance of leadership. He presented the students with the “4 overarching keys to unlock the door of potential for your success”, as he likes to call it. These main points include hard work, always do what is right, help others achieve their goals, and lastly and more importantly, have fun.
“Enjoy high school—be enthusiastic! It doesn’t last forever. Get pumped up about something. You can accomplish all the success in the world, but if you’re not happy and enjoying life, it doesn’t mean anything. In terms of accomplishing your goals, maintaining a positive attitude is extremely important,” Peller told the students.
The high school student council members proceeded to perform a humorous skit for the middle school students. It conveyed the idea that student council truly is a melting pot.
Student Council members also manage to stay involved in athletics, theater, and academic organizations. Furthermore, middle school students were divided into groups with an individual high school mentor. The high school students answered questions about the school, while also providing insight and helpful tips on time management and fitting in. The Student Council members organized icebreakers and leadership activities throughout the rest of the day, allowing the students to get to know one another.
“I remember coming to the high school for this conference when I was a middle school student,” VHS Student Body Vice-President JP Kunze stated. “It made me want to get involved and make a difference in both our high school and the community. I believe I’ve become a stronger and more confident leader.”
Year after year, VHS Student Council’s 8th Grade Leadership Conference proves to be a success. However, this one day is merely a glimpse of what the talented and bright students VHS has to offer.