Sophomores get used to new Leadership program

Burke’s tenth grade has been experiencing a new-look leadership program centered around mandatory participation and curriculum integration.

Stacy Smith, Burke’s Director of Leadership Development, has revamped the program since the beginning of the school year. Explaining her reasoning, Smith said, “[Burke’s administration] wants more streamlining and to get more people involved. Usually, it is 50 percent or 60 percent of a class [that] would participate in the leadership program.”

Smith also explained how the new leadership program cooperates with a pre-existing part of the 10th-grade curriculum.

“So the 10th graders started with Soapbox, which is public speaking … but also finding what matters to you. Then, you are going to use your leadership skills to try to solve this problem.”

Tenth graders had mixed opinions of the new-look mandatory program before their retreat on December 13th.

Xiyao (Yaoyao) Di ’22 said that she agreed with the change. She anticipated that a mandatory retreat would give students the opportunity to relax during the intense workload throughout the school year. She also said that she would still join a leadership program even if it is an application-based program. As another piece of reasoning, she offered, “I could also make more friends during the retreat.”

On the other hand, Amelie Groeschel ’22 claimed that requiring all students to become part of the leadership program would not be the most ideal solution. Groeschel said, “It should just be a student’s choice because it also shows something about the student if they choose to take part in a program like that.”

Smith reiterated her position while downplaying student complaints. “As part of being a sophomore at Burke, they will participate in the civic act activism in the civic leadership retreat,” she said. “ I know there are going to be one or two [students] who are not passionate about the program… However, they are outliers.”

At the retreat, students split into small groups and partnered up to select a social cause they find important. Over the course of the year, they will do research and interview someone who works in that field, then create a final project to share with the Burke community. Smith stressed that she believes this is an important part of the experience. “I think part of it is that it is integral to their 10th-grade curriculum,” she said. “It’s a graduation requirement that they do this interview”

In follow-up interviews, both Groeschel and Di admitted that they had a good time during the retreat and learned several beneficial leadership skills.

However, Smith pointed out that the change in this year will not be the ultimate product of the leadership program. She plans to keep adjusting Burke’s entire leadership program to be more in line with Burke’s mission and trying to teach Burke students the updated leadership skills, since “many [Burke graduates] are out there changing the world for the better.”

Note: Editor-in-Chief Jeremy Green ’21 is a 10th Grade Leadership Mentor and contributed to this article