NDA Students Promote Leadership Skills at Second Annual Middle School Leadership Conference


Frannie Wied, Staff Writer, Advanced Journalism

Middle school students from GRACE schools and Notre Dame students attended the second annual Middle School Leadership Conference at Titletown Tech this past week.  

The conference is a full-day event that provides middle school students the opportunity to learn how to become better leaders in their communities and everyday lives, but it also gives NDA students the chance to put these leadership practices into place. 

Mrs. Jamie Danen, coordinator and adviser of the conference, had many goals for the event. She hoped that students would grow as individuals while finding ways to become better people in the process. 

“I hope that every student who comes into the program leaves with a better understanding of who they are as an individual and how they can be a better leader,” said Danen. 

NDA students were broken up into eight groups, with each group receiving a word that represented an aspect of leadership. These included humility, cooperation, inclusiveness, empathy,  flexibility, role model, dedication and inclusivity. 

The groups then had to plan and figure out how they were going to convey and explain the word and how it related to leadership. Some groups chose interactive games, while others used props, like pasta and marshmallows, to build a mini bridge to show how everyone needs to work together. 

The possibilities were endless, and this gave NDA students the chance to work together and “lead” their group. It’s rare that high schoolers are given full responsibility in teaching situations like these, and this is what many of the students enjoyed most about being a part of the conference. 

“This leadership conference is unique because it is purely made by students for students. The entire planning process comes from the student leaders as we work together to reach an understanding of what leadership is,” said Barbara Inciarte, a senior who is one of the founding student members of the conference. 

As the middle schoolers moved throughout the different stations of the conference, they rarely interacted with anyone who wasn’t a student. This makes the leadership skills they are learning feel much more accessible,” explained fellow senior Ethan Crane. 

The seventh and eighth graders, over 100 in total that attended, were also broken up into groups, with the eighth graders acting as helpers and leaders. They spent the day rotating from each of the eight words that represent leadership, getting to familiarize themselves and understand how the words can help make them better leaders. 

“I applied because I thought that it would be a good experience to meet new people. By the time it was over, I had a lot of fun and learned a lot,” said eighth grader Lily Gretzinger. 

Prospective middle school students who would like to attend the conference must apply for admittance. Their applications are reviewed by a group of ten students and staff and are evaluated on a number of criteria. 

“Their applications are reviewed and evaluated on the merits of the answers and how their answers align with the mission of the Notre Dame Leadership Academy,” said Danen. 

The Middle School Leadership Conference started only last year, with 12 NDA students who were juniors at the time. It has now grown to almost 50 students ranging from freshmen to seniors. All NDA students are welcome to join the Notre Dame Leadership Academy. Danen hopes that involvement will only grow in the future, from local middle schools to students at NDA. 

“It’s wonderful to be able to offer such a powerful and important event for local students.  I hope that in the future, it continues to grow and reach more students in our community,” said Danen.