Benedict Conference Prepares Students for Leadership Roles
Students, faculty and staff from South Carolina’s historically Black colleges and universities gathered last month with community and political leaders to discuss the importance of community involvement and global awareness at Benedict College’s first annual HBCU Leadership Conference.
The conference, hosted by Benedict’s office of student leadership development, offered an array of leadership opportunities designed to allow students to obtain first-hand knowledge and experience necessary to become informed, effective leaders.
Panel discussions and workshops led by community, political and educational leaders focused on the importance of getting involved, as well as how to plan and administer school activities and community service initiatives. Other topics included how to develop and enhance personal and professional skills in the areas of communication and technology.
In addition, the conference included several events designated for elementary, middle school and high school students from the Columbia area.
Dr. E. Gail Anderson Holness, director of the office of student leadership development, emphasized the importance of reaching out to students before they get to college.
“It is important to instill in our students the responsibility of leadership at an early age,” says Holness. “As they graduate, many are automatically thrust into community leadership roles. They have to assume responsibility for their behavior and assume leadership positions because of the opportunities they have been given.”
Willie J. Thompson, a graduating senior at Benedict, described the conference as “life-changing” and credits it with helping to define his personal mission. “The most valuable thing that I can do is to remain humble, be prepared to do work to motivate others and empower people to be better than they are,” he says.
For Thompson and others, the highlight of the conference was an inspirational presentation by philanthropist and attorney Willie E. Gary. “He kept the students focused on the fact that he is who he is because of who he belongs to,” says Thompson. “He inspired us to know that all of (his success) happen from God and that God comes first.”
Although this year’s conference only targeted students from South Carolina’s HBCUs, Holness hopes to expand the conference in the future and invite all HBCUs to participate.
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