Students learn leadership is far more than a title
Student leaders from across the state gathered at the FFA Enrichment Center in Ankeny recently for a full day of training aimed at developing their leadership and networking skills.
This wasn’t your typical “sit at the table and listen” type of training. Quite the contrary.
The newly elected student leaders and officers from each of Iowa’s nine career and technical student organizations (CTSO) actively shared insights and engaged in activities, such as discussing favorite leadership quotes, learning about rules of leadership and creating citizen communities.
It is all part of the statewide CTSO student officer training, provided annually by the Iowa Department of Education, to help high school and community college student officers build their leadership skills, share the work of their organizations, and prepare them to represent all of their respective chapter members across the state.
More than just clubs or extracurricular activities, CTSOs are integral to high-performing career and technical education (CTE) programs. They enhance classroom learning through authentic real-world experiences and provide opportunities for students to network with their peers and business professionals.
“Having the opportunity for these students to collaborate and connect with other young leaders across service areas and regions of the state is crucial to helping them grow as leaders,” said Kent Seuferer, CTSO education consultant with the Iowa Department of Education.
“We have 62 student leaders here whose jobs will be to represent and lead more than 29,000 students involved in CTSOs across the state,” Seuferer said.
Each of Iowa’s nine CTSOs focus on a particular CTE service area: agriculture, food and natural resources; applied sciences, technology, engineering and manufacturing; business, finance, marketing and management; health sciences; and human services. They provide students the opportunity to learn, grow, and gain leadership experience in a particular career cluster or group of jobs and industries that are related by skills or products. Students participating in the training had the opportunity to develop and enhance their leadership and citizenship skills within the context of career and program interests.
“We represent our organization and the state,” said Breanna Lorenzen, vice president of programs for Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) at the state level and high school student at Williamsburg High School.
“Being a state officer with FCCLA, I promote personal growth and leadership development. Our focus is on family, strengthening ties and being and an advocate. Today is about gaining tools to help me lead and advocate for the state,” Breanna said.
The student leaders didn’t just learn from each other, they dove into communication strategies, advocacy and public relations, and professionalism and etiquette with Jonie Ternes, a nationally renowned public relations expert. A former CTE educator and instructional facilitator at Boys Town High School in Nebraska, she uses her education background to prepare leadership trainers and curriculum and to facilitate leadership programs across the country.
“The significance of today is in preparing student officers so they can serve the members they represent to the best of their abilities,” Ternes said.
“Leadership is a journey, not a destination. It takes time to build skills. I tell students that if you’re green, you’re growing; but if you’re ripe, you’re rotting. Today is about helping them see leadership as a never-ending continuum. There is always room for more tools in our toolboxes,” Ternes said.
During their tenure as state officers, the students also gain valuable experience that is preparing them for future careers.
Isaiah Rona, currently a sophomore at Ellsworth Community College and former graduate from Adel DeSoto Minburn (ADM) High School, is president of the postsecondary division of the Iowa Business Professionals of America (BPA) association. BPA’s mission connected with Isaiah’s goals, which is to develop and empower student leaders to discover their passion and change the world by creating unmatched opportunities in learning, professional growth and service.
“The values of BPA really resonated with me and I am also a business major, so it just made sense to get involved,” Isaiah said.
“As a state officer, I have to be able to represent and articulate our work to a wide variety of groups and individuals. The skills I am gaining not only help prepare me to do that, but they are shaping me for my future career.”
Editor’s Note: Check out our Flickr Album showcasing the student officer training.