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Leaving a Leader's Legacy--Student Summer Trip Inspires More Leadership Opportunities

This summer 17 student leaders from differing grades, interest groups, and walks of life attended the Josten's Renaissance conference with their peers and school in mind. (Courtesy Photo)

By Emma Duncan--Eagle Editor

Summertime is meant to be a chance to relax from the hustle and bustle of the previous school year, but for numerous students and administrators on campus, it was a chance to attend the Josten’s Renaissance conference. These Eagles gained leadership skills that will translate into growth, and maybe even a new class, in the Franklin County High School community.

The conference was held in Orlando, Florida from July 18-20 and featured high schools from across the nation, all of which partner with Josten’s.

“Josten’s is our yearbook provider. They [sell] us our senior apparel, caps and gowns, invitations, and when we have state champions they supply state championship rings,” Principal Jon Crutchfield explained. “Because of these things we are considered a ‘Josten’s School.’ Josten’s is kind of an umbrella company that works with high schools and because we’re partnered with them we get two free conference admissions each year.”

Franklin County High School has attended this conference for the past six years. Attendees have included class sponsors, teachers, administrators, and a select group of student leaders who’ve notably made an impact. Crutchfield went on to describe how these students are chosen.

Students from the classes of 2020, 2021, and 2022 show their Eagle pride at a Josten's Renaissance conference from a few years ago. (Courtesy Photo)

“So usually in the spring, we [ask] guidance counselors, sports team coaches, club sponsors, and teachers to give us a list of student leaders,” he said. “We use that for students that we invite to the Josten’s Conference but also to the conference we host here in the summer. This summer I know the executive board president, senior class president, [and] junior class president [all attended the conference.] Generally, it’s students in some kind of leadership position already. It depends on how much money we have and where the conference is, as to how many students we’re able to take.”

18 students from Franklin County attended the conference this year, including senior Marianne Alcorn.

“I think I was selected for the JR conference because I had recently been promoted to a leadership position in AFJROTC,” she shared. “The school wanted a diverse group of student leaders of clubs, sports, extracurriculars, etc. who could each take what we learned from the conference and apply it to our corner of the school that we were leading.”

The Josten’s Renaissance conference put forth a diverse menu of topics for a diverse group of leaders. During the conference, all attendees gathered together for “general sessions” featuring inspirational speeches and motivational tips from nationally known speakers, but there was also a chance for individualized learning.

“It’s a conference that really is supposed to be experienced by students and adults together,” Crutchfield explained. “Throughout the course of the three days there were breakout sessions and we have an agenda. I could pick what I want to do, you could pick what you wanna go do, many times myself and students were in the same breakout session. There were a couple [of] people this year who worked on the yearbook and they went to a yearbook session so it depends on what your interests are. We didn’t limit could choose as many breakout sessions as you wanted to go to.”

Alcorn seemed to soak up as much as she could from all Josten’s had to offer.

“My experience was certainly a positive one. There were quite a few exceptional keynote speakers whose messages really resonated with me, so it was wonderful to hear them speak,” she recalled. “We networked with and met a ton of high school students and educators from around the country and world. Going to Disney as a huge group was really fun, but the student rallies were also great. You could really feel the energy and positivity just radiating from everyone, so it was a great experience and I’m grateful for the opportunity to attend.”

From left to right: junior Lauren Kelley and seniors Sam Fansler, Sophia LaBrake, Heidi Eames, and Skylar Fox dressed to impress Josten's conference attendees with their school spirit. (Courtesy Photo)

Alcorn’s time of discovery and fun met all of Crutchfield’s expectations for the trip.

“I think that’s the most memorable thing: being able to equip students with the ability to learn and improve their skills and say ‘hey, I’d like to do something different,’ or ‘can we try this at our school?’,” Crutchfield commented. “I loved seeing more confidence in students.”

One of the suggestions Crutchfield received from a couple of student leaders was offering a new elective that uses Josten's leadership curriculum.

“Josten’s offers lots of things. They have webinars, all kinds of resources for students and teachers, [and] they have other lesson plans, but this class is really the only thing we want to use. It’s going to be one of our teachers teaching the class… and we won’t be using their curriculum word for word exactly. They may have lesson plans for days one through 90 but we’re going to pick and choose from what works for Franklin County students especially.

Crutchfield and his administrative team have reportedly been considering introducing this class for a few years now.

“The practicality of it is, we need more electives here on our campus and we really need more electives for younger kids, ninth and tenth graders, and it is an opportunity for a really good class,” Crutchfield explained. “If all goes well we’re hoping [the class will start] next semester.”

For the most part, teachers have been supportive of the opportunity that could blossom from this class.

“Our teachers here, the ones who know what it’s about, are really excited and think we absolutely need this class. The ones who are involved in a lot of Eagle Excellence and SCA stuff see the need,” Crutchfield shared.

Many students have expressed interest in taking the class as well.

“When it was brought up in the school board meeting I was really interested in it and I think that it's a great idea,” England added. “I would definitely take it if I could.”

However, some have raised concerns that this class is too similar to Intro to Leadership, notably because it was also created with underclassmen and future student leaders in mind. For the past 10 years, this class has been taught on campus through the Business Department by Marsha Lopez and occasionally Melvin Patterson.

“Intro to Leadership is a fun, interactive, engaging course that gives all students the opportunity to develop lifelong leadership skills… like conflict resolution, critical listening, communication, critical thinking, creativity, and more,” Lopez described. “The Intro to Leadership course has created and participated in many leadership activities over the years including Lunch Buddies and Orientation presentations at BFMS and various fundraising activities for groups such as the Susan G. Komen Foundation, the Wounded Eagle Fund, and more. Students are able to take the skills they learn and apply them in these projects.”

Crutchfield explained that he understands how some could find a relation between the two classes, but they have their differences.

While in Orlando this past summer, Senior Ian England competed in a game of pong in front of hundreds of high schoolers. This act of engagement with his peers reflects how England is a leader in his school, especially on the football field. (Courtesy Photo)

“They’re not competing,” he clarified. “To me, it’s taught a little differently and surely there are some things that are crossing over like public speaking, but it’s like apples and oranges, even though they both have ‘leadership’ in the title it’s not really the same thing. This would be just a local elective class with no department ties. We’re just trying to give more opportunities for more kids. We want people [to take the class] who might have some interest in doing things for our school but aren’t going to run to be a class officer or club officer. We can’t take 2,000 students to Orlando to do that stuff but we can have a class that introduces pretty much the same things that we learn or get to experience at a conference.”

After attending the Josten’s Renaissance conference, England has discovered firsthand that becoming interactive with one’s school as a student leader brings benefits on a personal and community level. To him, it’s something every Eagle should experience.

“I think it's important to be involved in the community because even though you may leave here after college, you need to leave a place better than you left it,” England advised. “From freshman to senior year each student has 720 days [to make a difference.] I think being involved in your community is one of the biggest things that you can do while at high school.”

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