Fall Student Leadership Conference was a huge success at Manitou Springs

By Mackenna Yount

MANITOU SPRINGS — 500 students, 100 advisors, 69 schools, one conference to bring Student Council groups from across the state together. The Fall Conference (FallCo), hosted by the Manitou Springs High School (MSHS) Student Council (StuCo), was a huge success.

FallCo’s theme for the 2019 conference was “The 14,000 ft View, Your WHY is Worth the Climb” and included workshops, leadership building activities, guest speakers, assemblies, and celebrations. 

MSHS’s student council has been hard at work planning for this big event. Last year, StuCo began planning the basic logistics for the conference and they were constantly working to pull together the two-day event.

Seniors Coco Stevens and Melissa MacDonald were chairs of the FallCo committee, and by working with Mrs. Stoneback, they were able to find guest speakers, build rosters for groups, put together instructions for workshops, and help to put together training for leadership workshops.

On Aug. 5 at the StuCo retreat, the MSHS student council worked with CHSAA State Representatives (State Reps) to build and run through the FallCo curriculum. The prep work that took nearly two years paid off, and MSHS StuCo was able to put together “the best FallCo” that some of the council members had ever been to.

To kick-off the activities of FallCo following check-in, Student Councils from across the state filled the bleachers of the new gym and were welcomed by MSHS StuCo and the cheer team. Music blasted, pyrotechnics sparked, and the crowd was full of energy for the guest speaker to follow.

The MSHS StuCo chose the co-founder of Character Strong, Houston Kraft, to be the Keynote Speaker for this year’s conference. Kraft spoke about the differences between being nice and being kind: nice is convenient but kindness takes lots of work. He stressed the importance of showing compassion for others and to break down the barriers that prevent kindness — incompetence, inconvenience and insecurity.

Kraft led the students through exercises to connect everyone in the room and have them look at kindness in a different way. Each student had to nonverbally express one of four emotions — sad, mad, glad or afraid — and find a partner who was expressing the same emotion.

Together, they learned how to give meaningful compliments to each other, talk about their emotions, and form bonds that connected all the students in a really special way.

Assisting MSHS StuCo with the planning and execution of FallCo were the CHSAA State Reps.  Students from all over the state who went through an application process, make up the roster of State Reps.

Manitou’s own Caden Salladay applied his sophomore year and was chosen by the CHSAA Student Leadership Committee. It was Salladay’s job to coordinate 20 other state representatives during the conference.

“The trust people put in me was the toughest part and meeting their expectations was a lot of responsibility,” said Salladay about his coordination job. “But I couldn’t ask for anything else. Being a State Rep was amazing.” 

During both days at FallCo, MSHS StuCo members and the state representatives led groups of students through a total of six “Family Group” sessions, all named after notable 14,000-foot mountains in Colorado.

The leadership skills-oriented curriculum was developed over the summer when Council Members and State Reps met at the StuCo retreat, where they could work out the kinks and practice the lessons. In the sessions, students talked about how they related to and applied the theme “Your WHY is Worth the Climb.”

The Family Groups were very meaningful to many of the StuCo members.

“I don’t think I’ll lose touch with anyone in my family group, even the seniors. We all share a little part of us that is similar and we’re all connected in a special way”, said Elena Reavis.

MSHS council members are still in touch with the State Reps they were paired with at FallCo through social media.

On top of students going to Family Group sessions, they also went to workshops throughout day one of FallCo. There were a total of 28 workshops taught by a mix of students, teachers, and advisers. Students taught 17 of those workshops, including two of Manitou’s own StuCo members Ben Schwartz and Caden Salladay.

Schwartz’s workshop was titled “The Importance of Body Language” and had participants look at how body posture is important in everyday life and the psychological aspect of body language. 

After workshops concluded, attendees flooded the big gym for a ThinkFast Interactive assembly focusing on Drive Smart, presented by the Colorado Department of Transportation. ThinkFast Interactive has trivia competitions as a form of learning focused on driver safety. Students let their competitive side run wild while still focusing on teamwork.

Participants were instructed to form teams of five and each team captain was tasked with manning a small device for the game. The game consisted of questions about driver safety as well as pop culture. Teams were also given the opportunity to earn a spot in the finals from a dance competition and a simulation to try and get someone to wear a seatbelt in the car.

The final round is played game-show style and whoever answered the most questions correctly won. The energy was high during ThinkFast Interactive, even though it was a long day. 

After a break for Student Council groups to get dinner, students and advisers were welcomed back to MSHS with the Event Showcase. The showcase offered activities such as a glow in the dark dodgeball tournament, games, a movie and a dance presented by Roxbox Entertainment.

Dodgeball was a popular event that many students attended and participated in. The dance was even more popular and Roxbox provided the music and light show that was perfect for FallCo attendees to let loose.

These events gave students even more of an opportunity to bond with their peers and build unforgettable relationships. 

The weekend concluded with Geographic and Homeschool Meetings on Saturday, followed by a Closing Ceremony.  Overall the event was a tremendous success and put Manitou Springs High School and CHSAA Student Leadership as a whole in a positive light.

Up next on the agenda for Student Leadership is 2020 State Rep applications (due January 31st) and selection and Advisor U, which will take place April 5-6 at the Park Meadows Marriott in Lone Tree.

Mackenna Yount is a senior at Manitou Springs High School.