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Developing Tomorrow’s Leaders Today
Developing Tomorrow’s Leaders Today
Tamara Van Wyhe, Superintendent
Thursday, November 15, 2018

Developing Tomorrow’s Leaders Today

Beyond learning core content, students across the Copper River School District are growing as leaders. Especially at the high school level, students have a variety of opportunities to develop leadership skills: Participation in school-level student councils and AASG (Alaska Association of Student Government) events, serving as Board of Education student representatives, National Honor Society activities, and classroom-level leadership challenges are among those opportunities.

One especially exciting leadership-focused event is the annual Youth Leadership Institute (YLI), held in conjunction with the AASB (Alaska Association of School Boards) fall conference. Four CRSD students representing three of our high schools rocked this year’s YLI in Anchorage last week. Nikki Friendshuh (Kenny Lake senior) and Celia Chmielowski (Glennallen junior) serve as student representatives to the Board of Education and were delegates to YLI. In addition, Thomas Abraham (Slana School junior) and Deven Spears (Glennallen School junior) were nominated by their principals and attended the four-day event, as well.

Spending time at the AASB conference and observing our students as they participate in YLI  has been a highlight during each of the past three Novembers that I have served as Superintendent. Each year, students across the state arrive at the leadership institute a bit nervous and fairly quiet. By the end of the four days, they have become fast friends with peers from across the state and exude newfound confidence as young leaders. They participate in workshops and activities throughout the conference that focus on public speaking, goal setting, school leadership, roundtable discussions with adult attendees, advocacy, and youth networking. They present polished and engaging speeches, collectively-written spoken-word poetry, songs, and panel presentations to a hotel ballroom filled with hundreds of school board members and superintendents from across Alaska. In short, they learn a lot and make us incrediby proud.

In the 22 years I have worked with young people in the CRSD, my message has been consistent: Our students are amazing. In each and every one of our buildings, the future of our communities, state, nation, and world -- the children and youth of our region -- walk through our schoolhouse doors every morning. Our administrators, teachers, and support staff members are keenly aware of the huge responsibility we have to not only educate these students, but to prepare them to serve as future leaders. What an incredible opportunity and awesome opportunity to touch the future this is! An event like the AASB Youth Leadership Institute provides such hope as the Board of Education members and I watch CRSD students blossom, step forward with confidence, and speak up with their visions for a bright and prosperous tomorrow.

Thank you to Nikki, Celia, Thomas, and Deven (our 2018 YLI delegates) for fully engaging in the institute activities, and to the CRSD Board of Education for valuing and encouraging this important youth leadership development opportunity!


CRSD students Nikki Friendshuh, Celia Chmielowski, Deven Spears, and Thomas Abraham enjoyed the Saturday AASB luncheon with Board of Education members Katrina Church-Chmielowski, James Fields, and Anna Bell-Hand.

Special thanks go to long-time Board of Education member Katrina Church-Chmielowski for her annual promotion of youth leadership activities, including the November Youth Leadership Institute in Anchorage and the Spring legislative fly-in and youth leadership workshop  in Juneau. Pictured here (L to R) are Superintendent Tammy Van Wyhe, KL senior Nikki Friendshuh, GLN junior Celia Chmielowski, Board of Education Vice-President Katrina Church-Chmielowski, Slana junior Thomas Abraham, and GLN junior Deven Spears.