On Wednesday, May 1st, sophomore students presented projects at the sixth annual Student Leadership and Education (SLX) exchange. The event allows students to showcase the culmination of their work in one of three electives in the Leadership Education and Development (LEAD) program.
This year coincided with significant changes in the LEAD curriculum and SLX structure. Students experienced Core for a semester before branching into their elective classes, instead of partaking between elective and Core classes throughout the school year. Furthermore, they had the opportunity to publish their abstracts on the IMSA digital commons, which is available for public viewing.
LEAD coordinator Priyanka Sarangabay (‘19) delivered the opening remarks. She reflected upon past LEAD projects now implemented at IMSA, including the giant chess board in the old cafeteria and the assorted recycling cans. Although many students’ SLX projects may not manifest into similarily successive initiatives, the skills and experiences gained from their time as LEAD students may aid them in future endeavors. When IMSA students are dispersed throughout the globe, they may utilize LEAD takeaways to continue making changes in their communities.
Throughout the morning, students gave elevator pitches to LEAD facilitators and professional evaluators and delivered formal presentations in individual classrooms. During break sessions, they participated in a variety of activities, such as writing post-it notes to their facilitators, enjoying a coffee bar, and posing for Polaroids with their SLX group. The closing speech, delivered by comedian and professional speaker James Robilotta, focused on the importance of maintaining authenticity in leadership. His interactive performance invited the audience to open up about their imperfections and ended the afternoon with notes of laughter and candor.
For students, SLX may be a nerve-wracking experience, as evaluators critically judge the quality of students’ projects. Ju-Won Park (‘21), a SocEnt student, viewed SLX as a rare experience that pushed her to create an effective solution to a social issue. “The process was really hard but rewarding. Having the experience to get feedback from the evaluators was valuable too because of the evaluators’ expertise.”
Ju-Won is also grateful for the dedication of her teammates. The success of SLX projects frequently relies on the cohesion between group members and the attitude of students towards preparing a quality project. Although Ju-Won’s was initially anxious about the viability of her group’s entrepreneurial venture, an organization that aims to mitigate school dropout rates by identifying at-risk students and connecting them with opportunities, she and her group received encouraging feedback from her evaluators.
“I can be proud that I accomplished this,” she says. “SLX was a learning experience.”
Andrea Stuiber, the staff advisor for LEAD, believes SLX experience provides both immediate and long-term returns for students.”SLX is the first time that sophomores at this academy can experience working together in a group. The value that they’re getting is those presentation skills, understanding what a day-long conference is like, and then using digital commons to publish their work for the first time. “It’s something they can put on their resume since this is a project which has been researched and it should be a gratifying accomplishment.”
Although not all students had a positive experience from LEAD and SLX, facilitators will consider their feedback to improve the program. Meanwhile, future sophomores are encouraged to enter LEAD with an open mindset and view electives as an opportunity to explore upon a topic of special interest. Ultimately, SLX is a celebration of students’ achievements beyond the classroom, and, for the better or the worse, a hallmark of the sophomore experience.