The Story of a Shared Experience

Dr. Emma Whitman

In September, Mrs. Miller and I sat with a group of our eighth-grade student leaders. Every year we meet with these students to learn about their big ideas for the year and build our relationship around being collective leaders. 

This year I started with one question:  Why did you decide to be a leader at All Saints’? 

Their responses not only illustrate the strong character of each student but, most importantly, they show how they view themselves within our community. Every leader talked about “growing up” at All Saints’, their individual strengths,  and how they want to help others. The recognition of themselves as potential agents of change in the broader community was striking. I am so fortunate that I get to work with these organizations to help these students develop their leadership skills and support for our community. 

Though this one meeting only involved four students, it represents my experience in discussions every day. These students’ words are a reminder that lasting learning isn’t about a forced experience manufactured to fit all children; it is a collaborative and constructivist experience that builds on the individual’s strengths. When students partner with faculty and classmates as active members in the learning process, the result encompasses far more than knowledge acquisition. It is about a process, not a product or set outcome. The ability to express purpose, intentionality, hope, and care for others defines true character development. This is what I heard represented in their words. 

Why did you decide to be a leader at All Saints’? 

Jacquie Vogel, Co-President of Builders Club
Faculty Advisors for Builders Club: Ms. Carla Cotton and Dr. Cathy Cohn 
“I have grown-up at All Saints’. I knew I wanted to do something in leadership because I appreciate the team aspects I have learned through sports. I like to see the big picture, and I want to influence students. I like helping to empower other people and making change by supporting others.” 

Madden Schmidt, Co-President of Builders Club
Faculty Advisors for Builders Club: Ms. Carla Cotton and Dr. Cathy Cohn 
“I have been at All Saints’ since third grade, and I have always wanted to be part of it [our community]. I love helping others, and I also like seeing the big picture. I want to keep being part of it.” 

Luke Benjamin, President of Student Council
Faculty Advisors for Student Council: Mrs. Susan Mueller and Ms. Caitlin Hoffman
“I like planning things out and seeing things work. I also really like working with people and especially helping people. I have been at All Saints’ for many years and hope that I get to help people this year and create change.” 

Michael Tsai, President of NJHS
Faculty Advisors for NJHS: Ms. Nicole Kardos and Mr. Todd Hebert 
“The biggest reason why I wanted to become a leader at All Saints’ is because I am really thankful to be here. I also want to think about the projects that we can do, like supporting UMOM. I care about that. As a group, we get to pick our organizations of choice, the ones that we care about supporting. We also get to move projects forward, and we are extremely lucky to be able to do that.” 

After answering this first question, we talked about building connections within our community in a year where we have limitations. They had some wonderful ideas, and they wanted to explore the question at their next club meetings. I ended the meeting with a set of final challenges: get creative, make it happen, and use this year to think about who you are as a leader and how you want to lead. 

I am grateful to be part of a community that fosters these ideals and partners with the child to make them a reality embedded in their character. As we move through the election tomorrow, I encourage you to talk about leadership with your children. Here are some questions to spark conversation: What leaders do they admire and why? What leadership qualities does your child have, and how do they help others? How do they work hard to create change in areas that they care about?

Thank you to the parents, the faculty, and most importantly, to the children, for building this community of intentionality, character, learning, and growth.