The high school at ISM is very privileged to be the home of countless, aspiring young leaders who are capable of great initiating change. Every year, these leaders from ISM’s co-curricular activities are chosen to take part in a leadership retreat where they are not only able to showcase, but also develop their leadership skills through various team-building activities. However, towards the end of school year 2012-2013, several teachers, including Mr. Neil Woods, Mr. Tom Mclean, and Ms. Gitanjali Paul, discussed how these leadership retreats could be transformed into something that can provide student leaders with the skills to bring about the type of school change that was enacted following the three Sustainable Initiative Plan (SIP) conferences held over the course of last school year. The success of the previous SIP conferences was what brought about the idea of Student Empowerment Training (SET) at ISM.
SET is a program that will be led primarily by Sung Yun Bae, Gaea Morales, Seong Yoon Kim, and Daniel Um, all of whom are high school seniors. It is a program that is designed to be collaborative, challenging, and interactive for leaders, experienced and emerging, across all of ISM’s co-curricular activities. SET’s goal is to make sure “ISM student leaders are empowered to shape their co-curricular experience” by using a pyramid toolkit from the earlier SIP conference. This pyramid basically models a process that student leaders have to go through to overcome a certain challenge.
It has four faces, each of which includes a compass point: Nature (North), Society (South), Economy (East), or Well Being (West). The objective of this pyramid is to allow students to think about an issue in a systematic way. The pyramid structure tackles a problem by looking at its causes and effects from different angles, or from the different compass points. The process also helps students look at problems without being overwhelmed. According to Ms. Paul, “it is essential that student leaders in SET figure out how they can be empowered to take control of their co-curricular experience without being overwhelmed by too much work or too many commitments. It’s about finding a good balance.”
Student leaders who have signed up for this program will meet for the first time on September 5, 2013, where they will be required to come up with eight strategies, one from each group of around 10 to 15 people, to achieve SET’s primary goal. Students will be broken into groups, and will work with the facilitators to go through the pyramid process and generate strategies from the perspectives of the different compass points to achieve this goal. They are going to have to speak up and participate in discussions with people they may have never met before. Students will then have the opportunity to apply the eight strategies to their leadership role, and ultimately reflect on them in a follow-up meeting with SET later in the school year, in February.
This is when they will be given and will be giving feedback on which strategies did or did not work, and how to improve on them. Sung Yun Bae says, “Being in the SET Team requires lots of strategic thinking, which is challenging, but I enjoy it because I like to learn how to facilitate groups of students and faculty members effectively.”
The establishment of the SET program will eventually provide ISM’s student leaders with the ability to manage their co-curricular activities in an organized and effective manner. In the hands of these leaders is a bigger and brighter future for the ISM community as a whole.
Written by: Linh Nguyen
Photographed by: Zaina Ahmen, Ernie Hsieh & Reyhan Anwar
Illustration by August Gibson Wilson