Ever wonder what a high school sports captains do once they're elected to lead their team?
What about the students who get nominated to be president of the band or choir? What do they do once they're handed the responsibility of leading their classmates?
Those are a few of the questions Brainerd High School activities director Todd Selk has been asking himself the past year. And, when a parent stopped by his office to ask him the same questions, the Student Leadership Program was born.
'As much as anything, we want the kids to help each other.' Brainerd High's Todd Selk
Selk formed a committee of parents, community members and coaches who studied the idea over the summer and came up with the initial program, knowing they would have to fine tune it as they went along.
"We don't have the end process defined because it's a work in progress," Selk said. "We know what we want to accomplish and the first few years will be a defining period where we'll try different things."
The idea the committee came up with was to have a way for the elected leaders of the school's activities programs come together on a regular basis and learn what it takes to lead, not only on the playing field or in the band room, but also in the halls of BHS.
"So often kids are picked to serve in leadership roles," Selk said, "because they're popular kids, which isn't bad. But it's our belief that we haven't equipped them with the skills they need to be leaders. We want to give them some hands-on tools they can use in their positions of leadership."
In August, all activities program leaders were invited for a program kickoff. Craig Hillier, author of "Playing Beyond the Scoreboard: A team captain's guide to a season of significance," was the guest presenter and encouraged students to think about what it takes to be a leader.
Since then, the group meets twice a month at Mississippi Horizons for a working lunch. There, they have roundtable discussions and guest speakers. Brainerd superintendent Jerry Walseth spoke at the first meeting and Central Lakes College men's basketball coach Jim Russell has spoken as well.
"We wanted it to be more than just a one-day rah-rah and then walk away," Selk said. "We want to stay with these kids, and in the meantime, educate them by giving them tips and ideas on leadership."
The committee is hopeful student leaders will use their meetings as a chance to bounce ideas off one another, or go to each other to solve problems as they arise.
"What we're hoping for is that when a basketball captain has a problem," said Selk, "that they turn to a fall sports captain and ask how they dealt with it. As much as anything, we want the kids to help each other."
Seniors Curtis Hebdon and Jackie Sullivan are students involved with the leadership program. Hebdon is president of the a cappella choir and Sullivan is a captain candidate for the softball team.
"I think it's a great program," Hebdon said. "I see a lot of value in leadership training and reinforcing the importance of good role models in school. Most often, the best role models are our peers."
Sullivan also praised the leadership program as a positive outlet for her to learn from her peers and hopes to take what she's learned with her when she leaves school.
"It's fun to be with all the other people from the different sports and see what they think about leadership," Sullivan said. "I'll be able to use what I've learned anytime I try something new. Leading by example is what I've really been taught."
Selk also went to all coaches and fine arts directors with his idea and received unanimous support.
Warriors boys' hockey coach Ty Eigner is one of the coaches who has been on board with the program from the beginning. He said a program like this is a good way for kids to learn how to solve problems on their own, which helps make his job easier.
"The nice thing for me is that the kids know more about what's going on with the team, outside the rink and in school," Eigner said. "When you give kids ownership in the decision-making process, issues get solved a lot faster.
"I just think it's our job to teach these kids how to lead. Hopefully, they take it to another level away from the field."
That sentiment is echoed by Selk.
"What this program should really be about is taking a kid and advancing them as a person," Selk said, "so when they leave Brainerd High School, they're going to contribute to society.
"If we can take kids and graduate them as better citizens, then that's what we're about. Ultimately, we want them to be good citizens and a citizen that can be a leader in a community."
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