ST. JOHNSBURY -- Four years ago Beth Choiniere, assistant headmaster for campus life at St. Johnsbury Academy, created a Student Leadership Academy to teach students entering leadership positions the skills they needed to create highly functioning organizations. Student leaders participated in a series of workshops and conversations designed to develop core covenants and understand the underlying principles of highly successful teams.
According to Choiniere, "We wanted returning and incoming students to experience to what it was like to be on a great team. So we applied those principles to our campus life program."
The program has been refined annually since that first year to make sure it continues to meet the needs of a rapidly changing world while keeping its roots in the Academy's values and traditions.
This year the Academy's campus life team chose to take a different approach and focused on creating "servant leaders." According to Charlotte Morse and Sarah O'Reilly, members of the Class of 2013 and president and vice president of the Academy's National Honor Society, a servant leaders is "someone who works to serve others, is a good listener, and is committed to helping new students feel comfortable. A servant leader doesn't have a personal leadership agenda. She is about helping others."
Choiniere notes, "The idea of servant leadership is in line with a long standing tradition at the Academy of students finding ways to leave this place better than they found it, and these leaders take pride in how the opening for the school year sets the tone for what is to come."
To help ensure the program's success, Choiniere enlisted the services of David Kelly to be the keynote presenter for the program. A leading authority on student leadership and community service on college campuses, Kelly encouraged the students to develop their leadership by focusing on goal setting, communication, and commitment. He also asked the students to recognize that leadership comes in many forms, and suggested they take particular interest in developing the "quiet leaders," reminding them to inspire the students to "take risks when the stakes are not so high."