By Geoff Ash |
Jan. 3, 2012
A student leadership program at Memorial University is pre-emptively cultivating new student leaders, three years before they even get here.
The Horizons program, a student leadership initiative at the department of Student Success Programs (SSP), begins when students are in Grade 9 and continues right through their first year at Memorial.
Sandra Cook, leadership programs coordinator at SSP, runs the Horizons program and explains that its benefits reach far beyond the impact on the participants themselves.
"The students who come through the program are very highly-engaged. Almost all of them end up working or volunteering with our office when they get here. That allows our other programs to be better and more effective because the students who are helping to shape and evolve them have been preparing for them for 4 or 5 years already.”
Fifty students from across the province are selected to take part in the program each year, entitling them to a series of personal and leadership skill development opportunities. They are also guaranteed an entrance scholarship from the Fry Family Foundation should they choose to attend Memorial.
Jennifer Crowe, a first-year Memorial student in Political Science, is in the final year of her own Horizons journey. Through her part-time job at SSP, she is helping future students get the most out of the program. It was her own experience with Horizons that led her to seek an on-campus job, and sparked interests in other areas of engagement at Memorial.
“It really helped me build connections with students that have the same interests and made me want to get involved in all kinds of things like the Students’ Union, that maybe I wouldn’t have even bothered to find out about.”
Ms. Crowe’s main project has been developing the leadership blog, which was piloted last year. According to Ms. Cook, her involvement has been a key factor in its success this year.
“We piloted the blog last year, and it went pretty well. Students were interested in it and really put a lot of time and thought into their posts, so this year we made it a standard part of the program, replacing the essay that they normally wrote in Grade 11.
"It’s going even better this year, and I think a big part of that is Jennifer’s work on it. The students really need a student voice to identify with, so I gave her the structure of what we wanted it to look like and the outcomes we wanted, and she designed the descriptions and instructions. We’re really happy with the results so far.”
Alana Loveys is a Grade 11 student at Carbonear Collegiate and a current Horizons participant. In her blog “Love for Leadership” she writes:
"In the future, I am still not one hundred per cent sure which career path I will take. However, I have already learned that the best things in life are worth working for and I will put one hundred per cent into whichever career path I choose. I am also sure that I will continue to seek opportunities that involve leadership and volunteering. I value the difference that these two elements have made in my life thus far and I look forward to future opportunities to share my enthusiasm with others."
According to Ms. Cook, those types of lessons are the goal of the Horizons program, and its success is obvious in the participants that make their way to Memorial.
The blogs, which are just one development component of the program, focus on the students' leadership involvement and internal reflections. They can be found at www.horizonsleadership.blogspot.com.