Ciara Ramsbottom is a 5th Year Student in Scoil Chriost Ri, Portlaoise. She attended the CEIST Student Leadership Conference and has been asked by the Irish Catholic newspaper to write about her experience of the day. She has kindly shared her thoughts with us.
Tuesday 24th of March 2015 marked a stepping stone in CEIST’s history; it marked the first ever Student Leadership Conference organised by CEIST, held in St. Patricks College Drumcondra, in Dublin. CEIST has 110 schools under their wing and 96 of those invited came along to this conference with three or four of their students whom they believed showed incredible interest in leadership within their school community.
With over 300 students and 80 teachers attending, the organisation of rooms was perfect for the occasion; every student received a wristband upon registration and the colour of the band determined what workshops they would be in. Not only did it make life easier for the facilitators of these workshops, but it also made sure that not everyone from the same school ended up in the same classroom together. The day had already started on a great note and it could only get better.
Dr. Marie Griffin, the CEO of CEIST, started off the day with an eloquent speech about how much of an achievement it was for CEIST to be able to have 300 of their school’s students hungry to learn more about leadership all in one place. A sense of pride wafted in the room as the students, myself included, realised just how much of a compliment it was for each and every one of us to have been lucky enough to have been chosen to attend the conference; we were proud because it was nice to feel that our teachers, Deptuy Principals and Principals appreciated the enthusiasm we have exerted in our schools enough to choose us as representatives.
Following a beautiful and relaxing welcoming prayer myself and the three other girls, from Scoil Chríost Rí Portlaoise, were spilt up into our different groups and off we went to workshop number one: What is a leader? What makes a good leader?
In this workshop, the qualities that make a great leader was the main theme. Sitting around tables of eight, every group had to work together to identify ten leaders from a list and explain why we believed that they had the attributes that come together to form a good leader.
To some it may seem simple to do, but to sixteen and seventeen year olds it can be very daunting to sit with your peers who you don’t know and try to voice your opinions without being over bearing. Luckily enough, every group got through the task and every young person got the opportunity to speak. At the end of the session, our facilitators gave us a moment to reflect on the work we had just done, they asked us to think about what we would take from today and my answer was simple: being a leader doesn’t mean being the loudest person in the room, it means being the person who encourages and motivates everyone else to be the best they can possibly be.
Workshop number two was much the same, with the added element of incorporating Jesus. This group discussion focused on Jesus’ leadership style and why it worked so well. It was refreshing to view Jesus’ work from the perspective of how He lead His followers and not from the point of view of His teachings. The message from this workshop was straightforward: each and everyone one of us have the attributes and potential to be a successful leader, but before we reach greatness we must believe that we can use these talents and qualities to better our schools, our homes, our communities and especially ourselves. This group workshop allowed us to reflect on how we approach situations and it gave us the chance to understand that we must take responsibility for the energy we bring into a room just like Jesus did.
After our workshops finished, we were happy to hear from An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny. He spoke about his own experiences with leadership as leader of our country and he encouraged us to believe in ourselves and to become the best leaders we can possibly be. It was a great experience to hear our Taoiseach speaking to us and it was most definitely a day CEIST won’t forget.
The day commenced after students from a select number of schools presented on their own experiences of leadership within their school community. My own school got the opportunity to present and the articulate Eada Hogan did our school proud.
Before parting ways for another year, we were blessed with a scattering prayer and a few thank you words from Dr. Marie Griffin again.
I commend both organisers and facilitators for a wonderful and unforgettable day. I have learned so much about leadership, so much about the great leaders in our world and most importantly, how to harness my own skills as a leader in my life.
Pictures from the Conference
Click here to view slideshow of images from the student leadership conference.