Early this semester, I had the opportunity to witness student leadership at its finest.
The Highlands Ranch High School Student Senate was hosting their first ever “Relay for Life.” If you aren’t familiar with this event, let me give you some background. Each year the American Cancer Society helps groups across the country raise money through this event. It is a 12-hour event, usually held outside, that allows participants to gather donations in support of the number of laps they may walk for in support of someone who is suffering from, or has survived, cancer.
The event also includes other activities that help make the night even more fun for the participants. Activities may include team games, yoga, and even dance classes. Overall, it is meant to be a fun time for individuals to gather for a cause they all believe in, raise money, and bring about awareness.
What made this event at Highlands Ranch High School so special was that, from start to finish, this event was run by students (with the help of the Student Senate adviser, Mr. Brad Odice). All aspects of this event were student driven- creating the schedule, ordering food and prizes, enrolling chaperones and guest speakers, in addition to setting and cleaning up. These students had a cause that they believed in and from there it was just a matter of bringing the adults on board to help make their vision a reality.
As Mr. Odice shared, “Tonight is going to be great because the kids have been working so hard on this and finally, it all comes to fruition. Lindsay Engelbert ( a current senior at HRHS and the planning chairperson for this event) had the passion, the energy, and the desire to make this happen and here we are. Without her energy this wouldn’t be happening.”
The energy of Engelbert was one thing that was visible in all parts of the night. From the opening, given by Stephen DeCoste, where he asked the crowd to thank Lindsay, to her own hustling about throughout the night to make sure that everything was in place. She ensured her committee chairs were prepared for their role in the event, and even shed a few tears shoulders of her adviser when it all got started; it was evident that the success of this event was very personal.
The event started promptly at 7pm, beginning with a short introduction and an introduction of a cancer survivor who truly moved the attendees as she talked about her journey and the importance of what these students had put together. Upon the completion of the introductory activities, to include housekeeping notes and “shout outs,” the event began with its first lap around the building.
As attendees walked throughout the building, they were treated to multiple tables providing information, individual challenges, and products provided by community members, local organizations, and HRHS student organizations. The night was setup to raise money for a great cause, but also to entertain and educate all participants, I would say that the objective went above and beyond in both categories.
When Engelbert was asked to share her “why,” she replied with the following, “The event focuses on all cancers, and I believe that we are all connected through this disease, whether it be someone we know by blood or name. When I first started participating in the event, all ages were there empathizing for the same cause. Through the years it has lost momentum among young students, and I wanted to bring this back to a school setting.”
And bring it back she did! We look forward to this event continuing to be part of the HRHS Student Senate agenda for years to come. Mostly because it supports a great cause and brings together community, but also because it has galvanized this group of students to come together and worker hard for a cause that they truly believe in.
While this is a story about what kids can do when they find a cause that they believe in, it is as much a story about how to be an adviser who learns and grows alongside their student leaders. Brad Odice is a relatively new adviser, who, in only his 3rd year has already inspired his students to reach higher, demand more of themselves, and to be a true support for the Highlands Ranch school community.
When asked to talk about where he gets his energy, Odice said, “As an adviser, I find myself emotionally involved in the initiatives students are passionate about. This not only opens my heart and mind to their cause, but also reminds me of their desire to do good for others.”
As advisers, we all know that there are many ways to approach this work. We work with our students to build our campus events, then overall climate of the campus, and to help our leadership students achieve leadership excellence in all that they do and who they want to become.
Having witnessed the culmination of one activity put on by this organization, I am able to, without hesitation, here to tell you that what we do matters. The words spoken by both Engelbert and Odice are words that we should all keep in mind as we gather our leadership students to start any project. Ask them, “Who are we working for?” and “How does this grow our council, our school, and/or our community?” In the answer, your group will, hopefully, find their own “why.”
If you would like more information on this activity or other activities that this group is involved in, reach out to Mr. Odice at: firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have an activity you would love to have us join you for, contact Rashaan Davis at: RDavis37@cherrycreekschools.org.