WESTFIELD – On Dec. 13, Westfield Public Schools, in partnership with Westfield State University, is hosting the first Youth Leadership Conference in the area.
The conference will be hosted at Westfield State University and more than 200 students in grades 7 -12 from Westfield and surrounding communities will be in attendance.
This is a landmark event that will be promoting the concept of Youth Leadership in Western Massachusetts, said Westfield Middle School Principal Paul Newton, an organizer of the event. The keynote address will be given by Aric Jackson, a motivational speaker. For over a decade Jackson has shared his mission to teach, inspire, and encourage all those who hear him, and has taken the challenge of helping others pursue their goals and dreams.
Jackson has served as the keynote speaker for such organizations as Future Business Leaders of America, Health Occupation Students Association, DECA, FCCLA, National Association of Secondary School Principals LEAD Conferences, and many statewide student council conferences across the country.
At the conference, students will attend three of 8 different breakout sessions that all focus on an aspect of leadership development.
The conference will conclude with a wrap-up session that will challenge students to continue to develop their leadership skills in their schools and communities. The Youth Leadership Conference is from 8:30 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Newton said Jackson has been inspiring student leadership and service for the past 15 to 20 years throughout the United States, and internationally. Before coming to Westfield, Newton worked with Jackson at the Enrico Fermi High School in Enfield, Conn., and at Parkland Elementary School.
For the past two years Westfield Middle School has brought Jackson in three times a year to work with students to form their service organization, Generation Leadership, which now has a membership of 90 students.
Newton called Generation Leadership “a wonderful group, always caring.” He said last year they organized free evening child care for parents who wanted to drop their kids off to go shopping before the holidays. This year, they have a weekly Study Buddies Club, offering homework help to students, along with snacks and a place to hang out.
Generation Leadership is also throwing a party for the faculty after school on Dec. 3, where they will be sponsoring a toy collection, which brought in 200 toys last year. They are also sponsoring a school-wide Winter Dance Dec. 6.
With the Youth Leadership Conference, the team at WMS wanted to open up the leadership training to all of the schools grades 7 to 12, not only in Westfield, but in surrounding communities. In addition to students from WMS, Westfield High School and Westfield Technical Academy, 50 to 60 of the students at the Youth Leadership conference will be from schools from Monson, Chicopee, Agawam, and Hampshire Regional.
Newton expressed his appreciation to Westfield State University for donating the meeting space on campus.
Newton said three Westfield principals, Charles Jendrysik at Westfield High School, Joseph Langone at Westfield Technical, and himself, contacted various student organizations and clubs in the their schools and worked with teachers to select the students to attend the conference.
“It’s really going to be a nice conference,” Newton said.